Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of Year 2012

Typically at the end of the year I do a small breakdown of the goings on and whatnots that occurred in my life for the last 12 months.  This year, I'd like to do something a little different, as there isn't much to report in the personal life.  I'll do a  quick summary paragraph and then move on to a tribute to two amazing people that I lost this year.

I graduated with a Master's Degree last December and have now spent an entire year looking for a way to make it earn me money.  Turning out not to be the best investment.  We have gotten nowhere on starting a family, but did start costly and invasive treatments in June.  My brother married the love of his life in September, and I finally got to be in a wedding other than my own.  I was also put in charge of the bridal shower which I drafted much needed help from friends, as I was clueless. 

The biggest change in my life this year involves losing my last remaining grandparents.  At the beginning of the year, I lost my Grandma H, who was my mother's mother.   Then a few months back, I lost my Grandpa D who was my dad's father.  I'd like to tell you about these two amazing people.

Grandma H was not your typical Grandma.  She was a party animal!  She'd drink any of her grand kids under the table if given the chance.  I spent 1 week of every summer staying with her and my little cousin.  We always had a blast going shopping at Younkers and hanging at the Moose.  Grandma had a heart of gold, and it always amazed me how people I'd never met would come up to me and tell me how wonderful she was.  It just goes to show how she was able to have an impact on so many people.  She was outgoing and fun, but not afraid to threaten to kick your ass either.  She loved us grandkids, we never had any doubt.  She succumbed to Alzheimer's in the last decade of her life, which was hard to watch, but she always kept her kind and compassionate demeanor.  I miss her terribly!

Grandpa D was a no nonsense kind of guy.  He expected the best of his kids, and was only marginally more lenient with us grandkids.  No one worked harder than my grandpa, of that I have no doubt.  He built up multiple businesses, and even took playing board games to a whole new level by making his own boards and pieces like Trionimos out of counter top (which I have to this day).  He built decks and ramps and garages, you name it, he could build it, roof it, or side it.  He was competitive and took playing games seriously.  Be it pingpong, shuffleboard, Rummikub, or Skip-Bo, if you won the game, you won it fair and square because he wasn't going to let you win.  While his body failed him, his mind stayed sharp until close to the end.  He was obsessed with coming to see my new house, and loved hearing stories of home improvement projects like our new roof.  I miss his expert advice.

So 2012 wasn't the best year for me, but it did have some up moments.  I'm hoping and praying for more up moments in 2013, since there will be a 2013.

Peace and love to you all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

Well here I am. It's Christmas Day and we've made it through another year of celebrations, family gatherings, and doomsday predictions.
First of all: Happy Yule, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate any or all of it.

A short rant:
Something drives me a little crazy this time of year. I try to be a tolerant person, and let anyone do whatever they feel is right for them, after all I prefer for others to do the same for me. But the last few years there has been a thing people keep going on about called the "War on Christmas".

It seems that Christians are up in arms about people switching their greeting to Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas and they have interpreted this as an act of war. It baffles me that anyone could say that including more people in your good wishes is equal to the violent act of war. Tolerance is a wonderful and peaceful thing in my book. Besides this illogical conclusion, everywhere I went people said Merry Christmas to me, so if it is a war, the other side is losing.
End of rant.

Enough of that. I really enjoyed this holiday season and I'd like to share why I think that is. For the first time this year, I erased all expectations before any of the holiday celebrations. It could have been a tough year since I lost two grandparents this year and that drastically changed how we celebrated the day, not to mention unpleasant medical procedures happening between festivities. I still treasure the traditions that I grew up with and will always have those wonderful memories, but I opted to "go with the flow" for how things would go this year. I didn't expect certain reactions to gifts, I didn't plan in my head how things had to be in order to be perfect. Instead, I made it my mission to try and make everyone who was around me as joyful as possible, and it worked pretty well.

Fun Christmas Story:
I was reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss to my niece and nephews (13, 8, 7, and 5), they gathered around and listened really well. It was a wonderful feeling to have them piled around me clambering to get a look at the pictures in the book. I was reaching the end of the story and got to the part where the Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day. I read the line:
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
As soon as I finished, my 5 year old nephew looked at me with his hand thoughtfully placed on his chin and said, "I can see that." I smile just thinking about it, what a wonderful moment to experience, a child thinking about how much more Christmas means to him than presents.  Priceless!  For our family Christmas means love, giving, and sharing memories.

Happy Holidays everyone, however you celebrate, I wish you joy and peace!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Revisiting an Old Friend

So it is December now, and another NanoWrimo is behind me. As with every other year I've done it, I am sick to death of my winning novel from this year. It's a pattern I tend to have. While I am working on something, it seems like total poo to me. But then, once I've given it a break, and not even thought about it for awhile, I can revisit and be more objective. Usually I'm quite surprised at how well I like the story at this later point. In that spirit, I decided to shelve my young adult fantasy novel from this year and revisit the title I won with last year. It's called Journey to the Mysts, and has distinct Taoist inspirations. At this time last year, I was newly invigorated by some Taoist authors I had found, and was heavy into the philosophy. Other things have stolen my attention from such spiritual pursuits, although my faith is strong as ever. As I popped open the document and began to read it, I was touched. Not so much by the writing itself, but by the honesty. This book is about my journey, and one I believe most modern followers of the way can relate to, assuming they have a mostly Western upbringing like myself. I'm not claiming to have written the next great Taoist work, far from it, but I am pleased that like many times before, I find myself enjoying the fruit of my labor. No one else has read this story so far, so I have no one's perspective but my own. And perhaps it will remain that way, but how great is it for me to be able to revisit my own journey and my own revelations. I'm proud of the philosophy I managed to weave into a somewhat romance heavy (though not a romance novel by any means) book. I find my words and interpretations relevant and even eloquent at times. It amazes me that I wrote these words, and sends me back to the spiritual way of thinking that I lost somehow over the last year. I hope as I continue to read through the book, I'm still as inspired, because if I remember correctly, I did not finish the novel last November. I reached the word goal of 50,000 and stopped. I had good reason, mind you, because I was also working on my Master's Thesis at the time. I really hope that reading through it now will inspire me to at least bring the story to a close and finish the journey for my characters.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NanoWrimo 2012

It is once again time for National Novel Writing Month where I will attempt to write an entire novel (of 50,000+ words) in the month of November.

I have accomplished this task 3 times in the past, and the result of the first two can be found for purchase at or through any ereader.  (Liberty Springs & Shades of Magic).

Wish me luck on this now traditional crazy adventure.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The great chicken experiment

I have wanted to have chickens for a while now.  I knew when we moved out to the country that it was a much bigger possibility.  Captain came around to the idea recently and we decided to buy some chicks in the spring and give it a go.

We told my wonderful niece about our plans, as she has previously raised chickens she is a go to gal for info about it.

Well, yesterday, she texted first thing in the morning because she saw an ad in the paper for year old red laying hens, for only $1 a piece.  Typically, hens of this age cost way more than this, or so we are told.  We consulted several people and decided the value was too great to pass up.  So boom, we now have a small flock of laying hens.

Captain called up his first mate and they got to work building an amazing tractor coop that allows the chickens to constantly have fresh ground to peck at and a super comfy place to live.

A similar sized pre-made bought coop could easy cost over a thousand dollars, and they spent only a fraction of that.  They got it together last night well enough to keep the hens safe.

The next morning, they removed the hens to a small fenced area to work on the coop some more, adding nesting boxes and hinged panels for easy access to get the eggs.  The birds loved their new home so much they kept jumping over the fence and up onto the coop.  Finally the guys just let those determined ones stay inside while they worked.

We were told that because of the stress of relocation, we shouldn't expect any eggs for the first few days.  Imagine our surprise when there were 4 eggs waiting for us in the morning, and 3 more throughout the day!  We are SO excited.  You just can't beat farm fresh eggs.

So far, this adventure is turning into a crazy whirlwind success story!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roof Quandry

The workers arrived at 7:30 AM today to begin installing our new roof.  I would prefer they let me sleep a little longer, but for me, the inconvenience is worth finally having that new roof on the house.  The cats don't agree, however.  The large one hides in a corner behind the couch, using a low crawl if she has to emerge for food or drink.  The small white one is unnerved as well, which is odd because nothing usually phases her.  She sticks to me like glue all day long.

Choosing the roof was an interesting experience.  They have several styles and colors to choose from, I began to agonize almost at once.  This is a VERY permanent fixture, and far to expensive to replace if I don't like the color, so choosing the right one is vital.  I enlist my usual techniques which involves photographing the roof and applying different colors in photoshop until I'm completely overwhelmed.

As I'm sitting there, I wonder how anyone could makes such a decision easily.  Then, as I'm driving along in the car, I begin to notice the roof of every house I pass.  Many houses in Fremont now have metal roofs (like I soon will), and I had no idea.  How could I have missed this new trend?  I thought my husband was nuts when he first proposed it.

Well for starters, the hailstorm a few months back ensured new roofs for most of the town.  But then, the answer is obvious.  No one looks at your roof.  Sitting here now, I could not tell you the color of my parent's roof, and that's the house I grew up in.  Not a single roof comes to mind.  And slowly the agonizing wanes, even if the color isn't perfect, it isn't likely to matter much anyway, because no one pays attention to your roof.

A sigh of relief.

PS: Why do I have an instinct that the plural of roof is rooves?  Spellcheck assures me otherwise.  :P

Friday, August 3, 2012

Weston A. Price

One of my latest obsessions has been finding the right view on food.  I sympathize with vegetarians, marvel at vegans, and end up right back with the carnivores I started with.  I get a little frustrated with some Taoist groups I attend, because even if they claim not to push vegetarianism, they spend so much time talking about it, it gets pretty old pretty fast.  Top this off with the fact that no matter what argument I've read (and I've read a lot), I'm just not convinced.

Enter into the picture the Weston A. Price foundation.  They have some pretty radical views on things, but then again, some of the views of Western medicine are pretty radical in my opinion, too.  From what I gather, WAP has a view that cows should eat grass (I wholeheartedly agree) and that we should eat butter.  Among other things, they have a different view on saturated fats, feeling they are a vital part of a healthy diet.  They also advocate making raw milk available, something I have long felt to be a good idea.

I am only beginning to explore what they say, but it all makes sense to me so far (similar to when I came across Taoism).  I saw there is a chapter in my hometown, but a quick email resulted in no response.  It's a shame, because I'd love to meet some people who practice this way of life and talk to them about it.  Perhaps I'll keep my eye out for signs of WAP at the local farmer's market.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Not a skier, and That's Okay

I am currently up in Minnesota visiting friends at their cabin on the lake.  I've been here once before when I was 14, and let's just say the trip was eventful and VERY memorable.

Of course, if you have a cabin on the lake, it seems reasonable that you also have a boat.  She does, and it is really nice.  As soon as we arrived, we suited up and hit the waters.  My friend is an excellent skier, making it look simple.  Her husband also had an easy time getting up and both encouraged my attempt.

So in the water I go, I've been tubing many times, but skiing just seems more intimidating.  And indeed, it proves to be highly difficult.  After about 5 attempts, I surrender to nature, and admit the water's dominance over me.

Next up, this friend somehow convinces me that I should try wakeboarding.  It's similar to snowboarding on the water.  Many failed attempts and faceplants later, I again bow to the water gods as superior.  I think I've learned my lesson on this one.  Sore muscles and sunburns compound it all, I am meant to be IN the water, not ON the water.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Liberty Springs

It may not be entirely Taoist in nature, but I have some exciting news to share.  My second novel is now available for purchase as an ebook on  If you'd like to see it, go here

Liberty Springs is about a woman who worked in Washington until forced to lay low for awhile.  She finds herself in a small town in Iowa that runs according to the libertarian philosophy.  It's a great introduction to some core ideas of the libertarian movement that is growing fast right now (Think Ron Paul). 

I thought it would be interesting to share how I came to be libertarian, since that is about Taoism. 

My husband wasn't overly political when we met, only really caring about gun laws.  I introduced him to the voting process, having been a pretty hard core Democrat most of my young life (we met when I was 20).  Together we explored the political climate, and found it very lacking.  I was completely unwavering in my desire for equality for all people, but not really sold on the financial plans that seem to go along with it.  The hubs was very for second amendment rights, but didn't like the overly-religious aspect of the GOP.  We both didn't care for either party's record on defense.  I have to admit, he found libertarian first.  He took a little quiz, and was surprised by the result that came up saying he had very libertarian views.  (Take the quiz here )

By this time in our marriage (about 6 years in) I had found Taoism, and found a completeness I'd always been looking for.   As any Taoist knows, there is a lot of advice in the Tao Te Ching about leadership.  I found it all interesting and profound, but it hadn't added up for me yet.  I have a book called A Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism.  It's not my favorite work discussing Taoist philosophy, but it does explain the core concepts well, and I often use it to help others understand my ramblings.  Well in this book, it stated that most Western Taoists adhered to one of two political ideologies: anarchism or libertarianism.  Never having been much of a chaos person, anarchy didn't appeal to me at all.  I was shocked, however to see libertarian pop up so near to when my husband had just found it as well.

The rest, you could say, is history.  We started out on different ends of the spectrum, but somehow ended up with matching ideologies.  It's nice that we get to share political experiences, and we vote with our hearts every time.  If you wonder about the issue of voting for a third party, that is addressed at length in my book.

So in a way, my book, though not about Taoism, still stemmed from it.  The teachings of Taoism are what lead me to libertarian ideas, and what keeps me there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to Normal

Okay, I've had a bummer of a week, and yesterday was particularly hard.  Got bad news on multiple fronts within hours of each other.  I fell apart a bit.  Thank you so much for all the kind and encouraging words.  I have a lot of gratitude for a community that responds as constructively as you did, both in comments and emails.

After a mini melt down yesterday, I'm doing much better today.  I try so hard to be positive for everyone else in times of trial, but I manage to forget to do that for myself.  Not any more though.  I am a smart and capable woman, and I'll work through it all in time.  Besides, like one of you wisely pointed out, what seems like settling now, may just be a pathway to the opportunity I'm looking for.  That's a much better way to look at it.

Nothing has really changed except my attitude, but it's amazing how different things seem in a new day.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reality punches me in the face

So I went to school for my Master's degree with visions of opportunity and doors opening.  I graduate in a comfortable position, I can be somewhat choosey and really try to find the job I want to have.

Fast forward 6 months and cold hard reality has hit me in the face.  My student loans are coming due, and seeing that amount of debt put a weight on my chest like I've never felt before.  I have not made a single cent since graduating, yet here they come a calling wanting their money.  I realize that because I'm unemployed I qualify for a deferment, but at this point it feels inevitable.  I'm going to have to find a job, ANY job that will start income coming in.

I had a dream of working online, allowing me to stay home and not have to use daycare as much.  It means so much to me to raise my own child, but it means more to provide a comfortable life for the family.  My income is vital to that, and since the family is proving costly to obtain as well, it's time to tuck tail and settle.

So depressing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ending Both Challenges

So I must apologize for not completing my 30 day Tao challenge, it's a bit sad that I was only 3 days away, so I will finish it all up now.

Day 28: Favorite Taoist quote from a non-Taoist
Though the Tao Te Ching wasn't translated until after his death, Ralph Waldo Emerson had a keen abiity to capture many of the concepts.  Here are just a few:
"A great man is always willing to be little."
"A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace."
"A man is what he thinks about all day long."
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

Day 29: Religion or Philosophy?
This is an age old question among Taoist/Daoist, and I would refer you to a previous post I made to explain my point of view on the matter.  Simply put, there is both, and many among them claim to be the only "real Daoists".  This type of labeling and exclusion is completely at odds with Lao Tzu's teaching, in my opinion.  Tolerance if not acceptance of others is certainly a Taoist idea.

Day 30: Reflection of this 30 day challenge
I really enjoyed exploring some of the different ideas.  If I were to make this challenge better, I would allow myself more than a single day to reflect on each of the ideas. Many times I felt rushed to get the post done in time, and other things demanding too much of my attention to allow me to explore something as deeply as I would have liked.  Perhaps a once a week challenge for a couple of months would be more appropriate for such a deep topic.

I have also opted to put the Complaint Free Challenge on hold.  I learned more about myself and those around me in one week than I ever expected.  I still plan on attempting the challenge, but I don't think that right now is the best time for me to have any chance at success.  I am still being mindful, though, of the complaining and gossiping that I had not idea I did so often.  I am also trying to just stay in an overall more positive mindset, although the universe has sent me MANY challenges to that attempt.  I will likely write a post in the future chronicling my one week of this journey.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 27: Leading Like a Taoist

One thing that I feel the Tao Te Ching is very clear about is how to be an effective leader.  I decided for this one I would share with you all a section of a psychology assignment I did for a Psychology of Leadership class.

Leadership in the Tao
            The first place that this Taoist learner began thinking about leadership was in her spiritual life when reading the Tao Te Ching.
            The 66th Verse of Lao Tzu’s work states, “The reason the river and the sea can be regarded as the rulers of all the valley streams is because of their being below them.  Therefore they can be their rulers.  So if you want to be over people you must speak humbly to them.  If you want to lead them, you must place yourself beneath them.
            Thus the sage is positioned above and the people do not feel oppressed.  He is in front and they feel nothing wrong.  Therefore they like to push him in front and never resent him.  Since he does not contend, no one can contend with him. (Lao Tsu, 2005)”
This passage speaks directly to the characteristics that make a good leader.  It speaks of the importance of remaining humble and compassionate when in a leadership role.  If a leader separates himself from his followers, he invites contention.
            There are many other references to leadership in this sacred text which encourages compassion, harmony and inclusion.  Lao Tsu (2005) denounces the claiming of ideas and says a true leader is acting as though the group interests were the same as his interests.  He goes on to claim that good leaders are the ones whom the followers scarcely know are there.  When the best kind of leader achieves success, the followers feel they can claim it as their own.

Lao Tsu. (2005).  Tao Te Ching (Translated by Charles Muller). New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics.