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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Weekly Checkin

The past week has been filled with two things:
Preparing submissions for contest entries.
Learning that I have Type 2 Diabetes and spending a lot of time educating myself about it.

I had gone to the doctor to get a TSH level checked. The last time it was checked, it was too high, putting me in the sub-clinical hypothyroid category. I've been on thyroid meds for 20 years, but never knew that I needed to separate 1-4 hours between ingesting calcium and taking the medication. So I started doing that, and the TSH is now within normal levels. High normal, but normal.

While getting that done, I asked for an A1C, which measures blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. There is Type 2 diabetes on both sides of my family. The test came back showing that I do indeed have Type 2 diabetes. It floored me, as I have been eating a very good, low carbohydrate diet since January. I shudder to think what my A1C level would've been, had I taken the test a year or more ago. I've read that Type 2 diabetes is about 10 years in the making. I've probably had it for three or more years. I'm guessing it appeared when I also began having numerous other annoying health problems. I counted 13 problems that could be attributed to my high blood sugar, but I won't bore you by listing them. Most of the troubles went away when I started eating better last January, however the kingpin of them all, Type 2 diabetes, still lurked in the background.
 
The doc wanted to put me on meds, but I want to see if I can control it with diet and losing a final 10-15 pounds. (I've lost 20 since January; two pounds in the past week.)

On Saturday, I began poking my finger six times each day to test my blood sugar. Since then, I also stopped consuming the few "hold out" carbs that I had not given up. That was beer at dinner and a protein powder in my breakfast smoothie (that was also high in carbs) and a half banana each day. Plus, I lost a good deal of control over my diet when we ate out about once a week. When we ate out, I would have dessert about once a month. In addition, restaurant meals are often too high in carbs for me. Eating a whole hamburger bun, for example, and certainly fries, would put my blood sugar well into the diabetic zone.

Since Saturday, while watching what I eat very carefully and walking/jogging for one hour each day (exercise is not an option for diabetics; it's a requirement) I've been able to keep my blood sugar within normal limits at all times. The meter measurements aren't perfect, but even factoring for error, most my results have been within normal limits. They started on the high end of normal, but since I've been following my diet religiously, the numbers have consistently gone down.

I also lost TWO pounds in one week. It had been so very difficult for me to lose weight, even with a low carb, low calorie diet and consistent exercise. Now I know why. Now that my blood sugar is normal, weight loss is much easier. There's a biochemical reason for it, which I won't go into.

I've also that noticed I feel better! When I work on my writing, there's no brain fog. I hadn't realized how much brain fog I was experiencing until, well, it went away.

So that's enough for now about "Hello, My name is Cathy, and I am a Type 2 Diabetic," although I might write more about insulin resistance from time-to-time.  

Sixty percent of the American adult population has insulin resistance and most are expected to become diabetic by the year 2020. That's only seven years away.

Diabetes predisposes people to a host of horrible diseases. Alzheimer's is among them and the one I most dread. I watched my mother suffer from it for 16 years. And yes, she had Type 2 Diabetes from the time she was 48 years old. And no, I don't think she managed her blood sugar levels consistently or well. 

As to contest entries and contest results:
In June, I entered my YA manuscript in four contests. I've now gotten results from two of them. I didn't final in either. One of the contests didn't give scores, so  I don't know how I ranked. The other did. In most contests, you need to have a score of 85% to be eligible to be a finalist. I scored 89%, so I would have been eligible, except that others--I don't know how many--scored better, and were the finalists. On this contest, the feedback was fantastic, well worth the price.

Then, I readied my Inspirational Historical Romance to enter into five contests. Each contest has multiple crazy, nit-picky requirements about headers, formatting, submission title, RTF or .DOC, and on and on. For one of them, I had to strip personal information that was embedded in the document. I didn't know how to do that, but I learned. 

Each one also wants to read different quantities of the manuscript. Some want a synopsis and others don't. So believe it or not, it took me 1.5 days to make sure I had done everything right and to finally submit them.

I want to give a special thanks to my friend Kim, who read the first 50 pages for me and gave me some very helpful suggestions. I had mentioned to her that I thought I had found my voice in this manuscript. It feels so much easier, so much more natural for me to write than my YA manuscript had been for me. She has read both. She agreed, and said I was off to a fabulous start. (Thanks, Kim!!!) Encouraging words are always good to hear. 

As to the weekend: We'll be out of town, taking in the last weekend of summer at a church camp. I hope you all have a great weekend.





Friday, August 23, 2013

Overgrown Petunias!




Oh, my, but the petunias have seen better days!












Friday, August 16, 2013

Harvest on the Palouse

Fall wheat cutting is winding down now, as is the barley. There will be some spring wheat to cut and then, early September, the garbanzo beans, which currently bring in more money than any other crop we grow, even Dark Northern Spring wheat.

Over the years, we've shown a number of people our farm. Frequently they are from India, Asia or the Middle East, as we live near Washington State University, and graduate students in agriculture are interested in learning about farming in the U.S. Or, more specifically, dry land farming on the Palouse.

Sometimes it's relatives or friends who want to get a small taste of what harvest is like. Last night, we finally got around to showing some very good friends, Vince and Sharon Himsl, what it's all about. It's often hard to coordinate these visits, as they need to work out for both parties. On our side, weather, breakdowns, and moving machinery from one farm to another have a way of complicating things.

But this was finally able to happen. Sharon took a bunch of pictures and posted them on her blog today.

Please check it out. She did a great "outsider's view" of the whole experience. And yes, I warned her that she would get dirty! 



Monday, August 12, 2013

The Cattle are Grazing; the Zucchini is Producing, and Big Tires are Going Flat

Oh, it's harvest! Harvest is ultimately about getting the grain cut and into  grain bins. (We don't call them silos here.) To do that, it's mostly about keeping machinery running. That's two combines, two Kenworths, and several smaller trucks. Also several pickups and an auger.

What do you think of our neighbor's cow? Aren't those horns long? The neighbor has a herd of them. They like to eat another neighbor's wheat on the other side of the fence. They also like the tender green grass that's on our side, where I'm standing.

Hubby's wondered why the cattle's horns haven't gotten stuck in the barbed wire, pulled the fence down and the whole herd gone free. And wouldn't that be a mess. Call out the motorcycles and four-wheelers. We tend not to herd cattle with horses around here, but with motorized vehicles.

Back to harvest. My son's combine has been beset with problems so far this year. He called Arrow Machinery to come out and fix it. They needed to order parts. So he called Jones Truck and Implement, who also needed to order parts. It meant the combine would be out of commission for 4-5 days, which we cannot have during harvest. Hoo, boy. No way, no way. So my son hauled it home to fix it himself.

It's so sad to see a sick, limping combine rolling slowly down a road.

With a degree in diesel mechanics, my son spent an entire day jerry-rigging it back together.


Don't you just love zucchini? When I was younger, and also a big sugar consumer, but also, being the ridiculously practical person I am, I couldn't bear to let any zucchini go to waste. So one year, in addition to canning 25 jars of zucchini relish, I made 25 loaves of zucchini bread. The relish got eaten within a year. The bread? It seemed that we could enjoy a loaf every other week for a year. That didn't happen. We grew sick of it long before it got freezer burn and grew dry and stale.

Back to harvesting. The cows aren't the only thing around here with long horns. We also have herds of deer, and some with big racks. Last night (yes, we work on Sunday during harvest, as well as every other day), my son's combine suffered yet another breakdown. A deer antler poked a hole through a tire and the tube went flat. Considering the size and thickness of the tire, that deer antler must've been impressive!


I got hubby to stand beside the tire for scale. The flat tire is the one he's touching. You can't really tell by looking that it's flat, but trust me, it is. We're not going to fix this one ourselves. Les Schwab Tires said they could get a guy out first thing this morning.

Although, it was already 7:30 am when I took the picture. Where the heck was Les Schwab?

Just wanted to share another slice of Country Living.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Happy Saturday

It's been almost a week since I last posted. It was a productive week in many ways, but there were breakdowns in others.

Living where we do, we pay through the nose to get fast internet service, although even at its best, we can't stream things. No NetFlix for us, or even watching YouTube videos, which is fine. We're too busy to watch much TV anyway.

But this past week, our Internet went out entirely. It's powered by a solar panel at the top of one of our fields, which somehow catches a signal from the nearest town. The solar panel went out, and we were without internet for almost a week.

I still managed to get on each day, briefly, via a modem that gets a signal from Verizon. But the modem overheats quickly, and its battery doesn't last long.

Then last night, our hot water heater finally gave up the ghost. Hubby said he could take cold showers until harvest is over (three weeks from now!), after which he could fix it. He's a DIY guy, not the type that would ever call in an electrician, plumber or any other type of fix-it person, 'cause he can do it himself better, and for less. ; )

Well, he might think he's tough and could get by without hot water (SERIOUSLY???? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND???????), but I cannot.

After I objected, he gave it a second thought and decided he'd rather have hot water to shower in as well.

So our son-in-law will replace it for us TODAY. He's been out here anyway, beginning to rebuild our deck. He remodels bathrooms for a living, and so he's also replaced many a hot water heater. He said he's never heard of any lasting longer than this one did. It's been in the house since 1979, when we built the house.

My flowers (above) are still looking very pretty. The marigolds are beginning to really fill out. And I'm beginning to get a bunch of ripe cherry tomatoes. I've never grown tomatoes, and those vines just kept putting out blossoms. We'll be having a frost in as little as 2-3 weeks, so I cut off the blossoms, hoping the plants will put their energy into making those hundreds of cherry tomatoes larger and redder, instead of continuing to grow new leaves and blossoms.


On the writing front, I've revised the first 25 pgs of my new manuscript, and have almost completed a revision of my original synopsis (1000 words). I noticed that I changed the ending somewhat from when I first wrote the synopsis, so I need to go back and change it to reflect my new plans.

I'm still planning to enter it into several August and September RWA contests. The first deadline is on August 15. I hope to get some good feedback. If by some chance I final in any of the contests, I might need to scramble to finish writing the last three-quarters of the book.

Wouldn't that just be awful? (Not.) The agents and editors who will be reading the manuscripts that final in each category are fabulous.


On the reading front, well, I haven't been reading much lately. Instead, I've been looking at all the pictures I've taken since the beginning of 2013 and am preparing to make scrapbooks. There's a method to the way I do things. First I digitally crop and/or otherwise adjust the photos that I have deemed worthy of scrapbooking. Then I open up Microsoft Publisher and start dropping them into a 12x12 (cut in half) template, which gives me a two-page layout on one 8.5x11 page in landscape.

I find it much easier to play around with photo and journal block arrangements when I do it that way. It gives me the option of changing my mind about whether a picture should have a horizontal, vertical, or square shape before I actually print it out. And I am guaranteed of getting a nice balance of horizontals and verticals in each layout. Because I make sure that I do.

Seeing each page in miniature, it also gives me a good idea for background colors. Predominant colors show up more readily on the screen than when looking at the actual pictures placed on a 12x12 background.

By laying out an entire album before printing even one picture, I can make sure I'm not repeating layout patterns, but am getting a lot of visual variety, apart from the sizes and shapes of the pictures themselves.

Anyhew, I spent six hours this week doing just that. In addition to the Disneyland album, which I finished last week, I've got pictures for three albums. I'm still using strap hinge albums, although when my stash runs out, and that will be soon, it looks like I'll be switching to three-ring binders. I've never liked post albums at all.

Next up is actually printing the pictures and trimming them to shape. After that, I slip them into the album on the page where they belong and select initial background (cardstock and/or patterened paper) colors. Then comes matting, mounting, journaling and finally embellishing. Each album generally takes about a 40-hour labor of love. 

How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise



Friday, August 02, 2013

It's Fun to Be at the "I'm in Love with my Story" Stage





Writing a novel takes us through so many stages, some agonizing, but fortunately, some that are pure delight. I hate the stage where I am so sick of my manuscript that I never want to look at it again, which is where I'm at with my YA novel.


But oh, bliss. I've written 50+ pages of my new inspirational historical romance. I am in love with it, and with writing, again, although for the past week or two, I was feeling like, "Who needs it?"

It wasn't because of the writing, but because life felt so crowded with other priorities. It felt as if, should I have spent time writing, the writing would've prevented me from doing things I wanted more. Like having a clean house, and scrapbooking.

Well, I still haven't cleaned the house, or scrapbooked. These feelings rise to the surface mostly when I'm frustrated because I've been too busy to accomplish any of my priorities. 

But finally, and even though hubby was rained out of the harvest field yesterday and today, meaning he was hanging around the house, distracting me, I finally settled into getting some serious writing done.

I've discovered a couple of RWA contests that I could conceivably enter with the 50 pages of my new WIP, and that deadlines motivate me mightily.

I don't know why I hadn't realized that before. When I was a librarian, I was always working against deadlines. Deadlines for planning five weekly story times. Deadlines for planning special programs. Deadlines for planning 35 Summer Reading programs. Monthly book-buying deadlines. Deadlines for writing reports for the Board of Directors, and articles for the local newspaper.

Last night, when I saw that I *might* be able to whip 50 pages of my first draft into shape for a mid-August deadline, I suddenly perked up. Writing had suddenly taken on more meaning to me.

So I sat in my office all day today. Besides doing a load of dishes and putting them away, and washing, drying and folding three loads of laundry, (which, as far as housework goes, is quite negligible) I got this much done:

I revised 4000 words. From the revised scenes, I removed 200 words, a chunk of a scene that sort of seemed like it didn't belong when I wrote it. Sure enough, looking at it today, it super didn't. 

Since I hadn't even read the material since writing it over the past couple of weeks, it's very interesting to see what I wrote. I have no memory of it.

It feels very on target, and more intelligent than anything I could ever have dreamed up on my own. I give most of the credit to my study of Dramatica theory and its specific suggestions for this particular story form. Although, I suppose I should give my muse some credit, considering it's around the eleventh manuscript I've tackled over the past 20 years.

Total word count when I started revising this morning was 12,900. Total at the end of this work day was the same. Hundreds of words were replaced, sentences rearranged, but it's amazing that the word count is staying so stable. 

See the bliss I'm having?
Yeah, I know it won't last, but I'm loving it for as long as it does.

Here's what I love about my story:

1912
Steam engines
Old Ford roadsters, tires rumbling over brick roads
Edwardian fashions
Victorian homes
Art Nouveau
Milking the cow
Diva princesses
Romantic  tomboys
Arrogant dowagers
Victorian pantries
Tea parties
Comeuppances
Learning how to Dance
Attending a Gala
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Pictures of wedding gowns clipped from the Sears & Roebucks catalog
Falling in a lake
Coming out of the rain
The Flim Flam Man
Jail house confessions
Arrogant dowagers coming clean
A Fourth of July wedding

What stage are you in, in writing your story? Whatever stage, I hope your writing is giving you pleasure, and a reason to keep on writing. 



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