Memoir: real names?

I am working on turning several years worth of journals, which I wrote while living in remote parts of Alaska during the 1990s, into a book. Or maybe a series of books. A lot of detailed stories keep begging to be told, aside from the notes of daily life that differ from the average day in civilization.

One fact that I can’t hide in my writing is that I was not in a good relationship. I don’t want that to be the focus of the book, but it is a theme that cannot be denied as the stories unfold.

I am not out to make anyone look bad, though some people manage to do that themselves whether I talk about it or not, and they should have thought about their behaviour before acting that way around me, knowing that I like to write.

I think of these words from an author of whom I am not a fan but it’s a good quote:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” (Anne Lamotte in “Bird By Bird”)

Still, there are legalities.

There is also morality. Regardless of whether or not it is legal to mention people by their real name and use the real locations where they still live as part of the stories I experienced, I ask myself if I want to invite the possibility of curious people trying to find their home to see the places about which they read in my books.

Other things I could say, but they are best kept for talking to a lawyer before publishing.

Meanwhile, I found this article to be helpful: Memoir: Do I Use Their Real Names?

Hopefully, I’ve not done enough stupid stuff to end up in someone else’s book. Then again, isn’t all publicity good publicity?

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Where Could I Go?

I was accused by a beloved family member of having apathy toward her when she was angry at me and another family member. The truth is, however, that my aloofness was a defense mechanism. I do not wish to fight, no matter how one tries to bait me.

A man used to bait me to fight, over and over, for the sake of his ego. It nearly destroyed me.

I will not go back to taking the bait.

And so who can I talk to when things like this happen? I don’t want to trouble my friends and other family with the details, for they can only understand so much, though I do talk with them a bit about it.

In the end, but even in the beginning, the One who hears my woes is the One who already knows: my Lord, my Savior, my dearest Friend… Christ Jesus.

I say, “Thank you, God, for being my comfort in time of sorrow.”

These lyrics permeate my being while I sit in a rocking chair in front of the wood-fired cookstove, waiting for the oven to come up to temperature so I can put Pigs In Blankets in to bake before I drop exhausted into my own blankets.

“Where Could I Go But To The Lord”

Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone to face temptation’s call
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go, where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Neighbours are fun I love them every one

We get along in sweet accord
But when I pass the chilling hand of death
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go, where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Life here is grand with friends I love so well
Comfort I get from God’s own Word
But when my soul needs manna from above
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go, where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go, where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord
Where could I go but to the Lord

And the story on the song’s writing:

http://dianaleaghmatthews.com/where-could-i-go-but-to-the-lord/#.W6SCuuoTFGo

A Wordpress “Slug”

I opted to upgrade to the new setup WordPress has for us bloggers. I’m not sure if the page where we create our blog is called a “dashboard” now, or if it is something else, but whatever it is has got a new field called “Slug”.

I had to Google to find out what this slug meant. My, how words have exploded in meaning since Webster’s paperback dictionaries were some of my dearest companions.

So, the new meaning of a slug, at least here on WordPress, is a user-friendly URL for your post’s link, so it’s not a string of characters with the title of your blog entry possibly woven in.

Here is a link for a brief article on the WPBeginners page that describes it better:

WordPress “slug” meaning

That’s all. Happy Word Pressing!

 

 

Memoir Writing Tenses

It’s a little bit creepy how it turns out that things about which I had only been thinking but hadn’t yet uttered aloud or even typed to anyone happen to turn up as a topic in a notification on my Facebook. The following link is one of them:

Writers Digest article on memoir structure

In case the article disappears from view someday, I will copy it in its entirety here.

5 Things to Consider When Structuring Your Memoir
September 12, 2018
by Cheryl Suchors

For some writers, structure appears like a bridge in the mist; for others, like myself, there’s only the mist. Several ingredients can be used to create a structure, like that bridge, that works for your book. You may know the answers to the considerations below right away, or you may need to experiment and discover them through the writing itself. Either way, memoir structure is as crucial as structure in fiction and no good memoir will be able to stand tall without it.

Memoir Structure: 5 Things to Consider When You’re Writing a Memoir

1. Order of Events

In some memoirs, Without a Map by Meredith Hall for example, the chapters jump forward and backward in time. This adds an element of unpredictability that both challenges and engages the reader.

Most memoirs, however, tend to flow chronologically. That is, they run through events in the sequence in which they happened. But even a chronological memoir isn’t purely chronological since the narrator is now an adult filtering past experiences through the lens of a wiser, more mature person. This is part of what adds richness to the tale.

If you can avoid a mostly chronological structure, good for you. You’ll benefit from the inherent complexity. But if, like most memoirists, you are using a chronological structure, there are still several techniques to help you avoid the pitfall of “first this happened, then that happened,” an approach that drains the life and tension from a book.

I stuck to a chiefly chronological structure in 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains, while playing with various elements of structure to create movement and interest: storyboarding, sectioning, tense, and time.

2. Storyboarding

Basically, a book poses a central question or issue in the beginning and answers or resolves it, for good or ill, by the end. Storyboarding the rising and falling action that creates drama is a technique borrowed from film.

I learned how to use a storyboard to structure my memoir from Mary Carroll Moore, author of Your Book Starts Here. (She also does a youtube explanation, embedded below, and offers a wonderful blog on writing at marycarrollmoore.com.)

Essentially, there are five key points: the triggering event that gets the action rolling down toward the second point, a conflict or complication that gets worked through to create a rising action; the third turn which sends the action spiraling downward to the fourth point, the lowest point of the book, from which the action ascends to the fifth point or conclusion. These five points shape, in effect, a capital W.

Figuring out these five points provides the skeleton of your memoir. From there, one decides what must happen between each pair of points or leg of the W.

I wrote my five key points onto five brightly colored sticky notes and stuck them in their appropriate spot, creating a large W on a big piece of white cardboard. Each scene or action I thought belonged in 48 PEAKS went onto a sticky note. I placed the stickies somewhere between a pair of points. I moved certain bits around to even things out or build tension. Sometimes I had to create scenes to improve the flow, or delete those that weren’t integral to the rest of the book. In either case, it was easier to come to these conclusions because I could literally see the cogs that made the wheel of my memoir turn.

Once you’ve settled on the right order for your storyboard, see if it makes sense for your manuscript to be divided into parts. Sectioning can be a way of supporting your reader through the material in a way that we’re all so used to it doesn’t intrude as it guides.

My manuscript, for example, fell into two parts as neatly as an apple cleaved in half. (Not that I planned it that way.) A main character in the first half, for reasons I won’t go into here, disappeared in the second half. And that disappearance created a certain thrust for the second part.

From a story point of view, the sectioning made sense. It also, frankly, made the material easier for me to work with, since I was manipulating one half of the book at a time. I did have to go back later on to ensure themes wove the two halves together, but sectioning made earlier drafts less arduous.

4. TENSE

In what tense will you write your memoir? Present tense has the benefit of intimacy and immediacy; simple past is familiar, virtually transparent to readers, and can be easier to sustain for a book-length project.

My early drafts were written completely in the present tense because it helped me, the writer, feel again what I transcribed. But I experimented with the simple past as well and liked both ways. I couldn’t decide which to do, until a developmental editor suggested putting the first half in the past tense and the second half in the present. This idea appealed to me because, as a reader, I sometimes found books sagged in their middles. Switching at that point to the present tense introduced a novelty and a speed that I hoped would keep readers turning the pages.

Changing tenses worked because I began the book with a prologue that took place four years after the start of the book in chapter one. I wrote the prologue in present tense to establish that year as the narrative present. In this way, the whole first half was past tense because it had happened earlier. The second half of the book returned to the narrative present and took off from there.

5. Time

Flashbacks are another way to play with time and break up the chronological line. They not only add depth to characters but also create tension as the reader must wait for the story to move onward. Flashbacks were a handy device, I found, when I didn’t want to resolve a situation too quickly but wanted the drama to build for awhile.

You can also use long sections of narration in the same manner as flashbacks, breaking up the forward motion of the book with, in effect, pauses to consider a point, a whole chunk of history, or a theme. I advise using this technique sparingly; too many pauses or digressions can merely aggravate readers.

If it makes sense for your story, one can also create flash forwards, though these are typically brief and have to be handled with care so as not to jolt the reader.

Conclusion

Finding the structure that fits and supports your memoir takes effort. If you’re going with a primarily chronological order, as most of us do, a slightly playful attitude allows you to experiment, to stretch and pull the inherent drama from your story like taffy.

Above all, be patient. Persevere. If you keep at it, the structure that uniquely suits your memoir will come to you through the mist.

Writing Without Cussing

If someone’s going to write a book, a play, or a movie – or even an internet post – they should produce it with proper dialogue and good words.

Creative words.

Don’t stick to the lameness of reality with its knee-jerk cussing.

Go out on a limb of higher verbiage.

There is time, when writing as opposed to speaking, to cultivate creative communication.

PTB!

When you are in a grocery store and you see something on the shelf that doesn’t fit in with the other items around it, if you are with someone, point at the item, and with amusement say “PTB!”

They might not know what you mean, so you will need to explain the following, about which I originally mused aloud to one of my children many years ago:

I can just imagine a kid carrying that box of chocolates around as their mom shops.

The kid asks, “Mom, can I get this?”

In an irritated voice, the mom says, “No! Put that back!”

The child says, “But I don’t know where it goes.”

The mom says in an even more irritated voice, “Just put it right there,” pointing at a blank spot between the dish soap and the Windex.

The child with sufficient common sense might realize that is not the correct spot and balk at the command.

The mom, in the most irritated voice she has left, says, “Ugh!” as she grabs the chocolates and tosses them on the shelf.

Since then, I’ve told variants of that story to all seven of my children, and even to a few friends outside the family, whenever we see something that is out of place on a grocery shelf.

“Put that back!” in a mock irritated voice is often shortened to a mere “PTB” in a smiling voice.

A PTB comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be a can of Pringles in the toilet paper section. It might be a bag of chewy banana candies sitting by the bleach. It’s possibly a jar of Bick’s pickles beside the motor oil. It could even be a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup in with the scented jar candles (though I don’t know if anyone would realistically want to carry a can of that soup around for any length of time, so it could be assumed it was a small child too young to realize what it was).

I draw the line, however, at seeing cold items in a warm section. If time and energy permit, I will usher a carton of cashew milk to its proper refrigerator, and if a container of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Crunch should appear in an inappropriate location and isn’t melted, I would more than likely have to add it to my cart for purchase. Waste not, want not.

Next time you are in a store and you see something out of place, think of my little story. If you can, please take a picture and send it to me.

Below is a photo of a PTB I saw yesterday at a local grocery store. 🙂

Happy shopping!

See the PTB? It’s a stuffed animal among toilet cleaning supplies.

Amish Man Finds God

The following is the testimony of a man named Eli Lee. Eli was raised in an Amish community, but he found the teaching to not be in line with God’s Word.

I don’t know Eli. Never heard of him till today. But I believe I will meet him, and all others throughout history who have put their trust in Jesus as Savior, someday, in heaven.

Here is Eli’s story:

. . . . . .

From July 11, 2017

I was born and raised in the Amish culture. Growing up, I don’t ever remember desiring not to be Amish. I sincerely thought that being a part of the Amish was the only way I would have a chance to go to heaven one day.

When I was twenty years old, I married my wife, Leah. God then blessed us with eight wonderful children.

As an Amish man, I was very zealous about my religion and tried my best to live according to the rules and what I understood of God’s Word. I was involved in enforcing the excommunication of several people in my community because they claimed they could be sure that if they would die, they would go to Heaven. These people believed that salvation had nothing to do with following the Amish rules, which was not a permissible way of thinking.

My dad was a bishop, so it was very important that all his children remained loyal to the religion; we did not want to disgrace him. Every morning and every night, my whole family would get down on our knees, and I would read the mandatory prayers out of a prayer book just like my dad had taught me to do. I was doing well until I got sick at the age of thirty.

I became so sick that I couldn’t work. My wife and I spent all our time and resources over the next three years trying to figure out what my medical problem was, but the doctors and hospitals were unable to figure it out. I finally gave up on the doctors and told my wife that there was no point in continuing like this. If I was going to die anyways, I didn’t see the point of doing so in a way that left a large amount of debt for my family. For this reason, I quit going to my appointments.

We had a small home business that manufactured wood products. Since I couldn’t work and had to rely solely on hired help, the business began to go downhill. As a result, our finances were getting tight. One day, after realizing that we only had enough food in the house to last a few days, I went out and tried to work despite my health condition. I overdid things and ended up sick again and in bed for a week.

A few days later, my wife had to run an errand, so I was lying on the couch alone. I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore. I cried out to God and told him that I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew that His Word said that He would take care of his children, but I didn’t feel like he was taking care of me. Because of this, it made me begin to question whether I was his child or not.

I continued talking to God and gave my wife and children to Him. I told Him that I would trust Him to somehow take care of them because I was physically unable to do so and could not bear to continue seeing them go hungry. I also gave my business into His hands. I asked that He either make it become successful again or “run it to the ground,” so I could quit worrying about it.

As far as myself, that day, I asked God to forgive my sins, and then I begged Him to take my life. I told Him that I was tired of living and felt worthless here on Earth. I did agree that if there was still something He wanted me to do on this Earth, I would be willing, but I would need patience to endure whatever it was that I needed to go through until I got to that point. I asked that He put His Holy Spirit in my heart, so that I could better understand what His will was for my life.

As I finished up my prayer, I cried myself to sleep.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, I got off the couch and felt so light that I had to look down to make sure my feet were on the floor. I also felt an incredible peace like I had never experienced before. I knew that God has heard my prayer and that I was now in unity with Him. I realized that He had forgiven me of my sins, and that He had given me salvation.

At the time, I did not know what being saved was, but I knew deep down that I was born again. I also knew that God had given me salvation as a gift, and that it was not something that I would receive at the end of life only IF I followed the rules of the church well enough like I was always taught.

Later that same day, I walked to the neighbor’s house, who had a phone with an answering machine. As I was checking my business messages, I saw that one had come in. The message was from a customer, who wanted to order about $7,000 worth of material. I immediately began to weep and worship God because I now knew that not only had He forgiven me from all my sins and made me His child, but He had also taken over our business and finances.

Something else happened that day that I was totally unprepared for. The Holy Spirit now lived in my heart, and He immediately began working. I kept thinking about the newfound salvation that God had given to me as a gift. I knew that if anyone would find out that I now believed in this way of faith, I would immediately be in trouble with the church; this thought troubled me.

I had an unrelenting urge to know God better and to know God’s heart, though, so I pushed those fears aside and started reading the Bible more than I had ever done before. As I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit gave me understanding, and I began to gain meaning from scriptures I had never understood before.

The more I read, the more inconsistencies I found in the teachings of the Amish church. Now, instead of the Amish teaching me, the Holy Spirit was teaching me. It was so refreshing to receive insight from the Spirit, but again, it troubled me because it kept pointing out more and more errors of the religion that was so dear to me.

It soon became evident that there was a big cross road ahead for me. If I kept believing the things that the Spirit was revealing to me, I knew that I would get in trouble with the church. And, on the other hand, if I continued believing the things I was taught by the church, I would have to be disobedient to the Holy Spirit. I didn’t dare to talk to my wife about the turmoil going on inside me either because I knew that she would immediately get scared and run to the preachers to tell them about what I was believing. Then, I would be excommunicated and separated from my family.

After some time, I became deeply distressed. One day, I fell on my face before God and said, “God, I do not know what’s right anymore. At first, I had been convinced that I was hearing your Holy Spirit direct me, but now I’m not beginning to question if maybe it was Satan’s voice I was hearing instead. I have no one to talk to because I have lost confidence in the Amish preachers, but I need to know if this is you that is teaching me these things.”

As I continued with my prayer, I told God about a man I knew in the city that was a Christian counselor. Even though I didn’t know if this man was truly a believer or not, I knew that God could make even a donkey speak, and God laid it on my heart to visit and give it a try. I trusted God to put the words that I needed to hear into the man’s mouth.

I called the man’s number and made an appointment to go see him. I intentionally made the appointment at a time I was delivering things to my customers, so no one would know that I had gone to talk to him. I had convinced myself by this time that he was going to tell me that Satan had deceived me and that I needed to return and believe what I was taught from childhood. I just couldn’t imagine that God would want to have me choose my newfound faith and chance being separated from my wife and my children.

I didn’t get very far into telling this counselor my troubles when he surprised me by starting to praise God. After a few rounds of him praising God, I became a little irritated, and I asked him why he was praising God. He replied by saying that he was praising God because he could see that the Holy Spirit was at work in my life. I responded by asking him how he knew that this was the Holy Spirit and not Satan deceiving me.

Immediately, the counselor saw the seriousness of the situation, and he began asking me some more questions like, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” And, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ has died for your sins?” And, “Do you believe that Jesus rose again and went to heaven?”

My answers to all of his questions were, “Of course I believe that!” It was then that he got his Bible out and turned to first John where it talked about testing the spirits to see whether they are from God. He pointed out the fact that every spirit that confesses that the Jesus Christ is Lord is a spirit that is truly from God.

I soon realized that I was trying to convince him and myself that I was not being led by the Holy Spirit because of my desire to remain Amish. After I realized this, I got up and left.

Before meeting with the counselor, I had promised God that I would believe what he said. Even though a piece of me was relieved after talking to him, a piece of me was now also deeply distressed because I knew what lie ahead for me.

I went home, and I thanked God for answering my prayer. I felt much better at the time, but after about three weeks, the same doubts returned that I had before I went to the counselor. I prayed to God asking that he forgive me for doubting him, but in my mind, this was just too serious of a matter to be mistaken about. Not only did my eternal future rely on me making the right decision, but the souls of my wife and children were at stake as well.

Because I knew that God was not a God of confusion and that he was not a God that wanted to separate families, I began praying that God would begin working on my wife’s heart. I knew that I could not convince my wife to believe one way or another, but I knew that if this was really a God-led thing, He could lead and teach my wife in the same way that He led and taught me.

I agreed with God to talk to my wife about my newfound faith. I told God that if she agreed with me that salvation was by faith, then I would know that it was from God and would not doubt it again. However, if she would get scared and not believe that salvation is by faith, then I was going to throw the whole idea out knowing that it was all a lie from Satan; I would go back to believing what my father and the church had taught me.

After talking to God about my plan, I felt some peace but was also afraid of what might happen; this fear kept me from talking to my wife for about two or three more weeks.

Finally, I gathered up the courage and sat down to talk to her. I started with some of the smaller areas of indifference, and she agreed that what I said was right, so I kept talking. As I continued, I saw that she kept agreeing, and finally, I was able disclose everything to her including my belief that salvation was a gift from God by grace, not something that we may or may not receive after a lifetime of obeying the rules of the church. To my surprise, she agreed with that too!

At this point, I began weeping and praising God. I now knew without a doubt that God was truly teaching me, and that he had been working on my wife’s heart as well. From that day until this very day, I have never again doubted whether it was God or Satan that was working on me; I know that it was God all along.

My wife and I ended up spending most of the day talking about what our future and the future of our children would look like. We talked about what life might be like in the big, scary world that lay outside of the secure walls of our Amish religion. We knew without a doubt that as soon as they found out about our new beliefs, we would be excommunicated from the religion we had grown up in and separated from our parents and our siblings for the rest of our lives.

We also knew that as soon as anybody would find out, we would be bombarded by preachers and our parents about having been deceived. We would be told that unless we would repent, we would go to hell for eternity. Because of this, our plan was to not tell anybody what we believed for a couple of years; this would give us time to study the Scriptures and be able to defend what we believe.

I soon decided that I wanted to begin praying to God from my heart with my whole family. After talking to my wife and getting her consent, I talked to the children about it and forbid them to tell anybody that we prayed that way. I knew that if anyone found out that we were praying without the approved prayer book, we would be commanded to stop immediately or once again, be in danger of excommunication.

After making the decision to pray to God from our hearts instead of the prayer book, things felt a lot more pleasant; I felt that I had someone I could always talk to. I continued to pray that if the time came that God wanted us to speak up and be open about our new beliefs, that he would give us the courage to do so as well as give us the words to speak.

Even though we knew a lot of scripture from our upbringing, it didn’t necessarily mean that we knew what it meant. Reading the Bible was like taking the words of God and pouring them through the sieve of the Holy Spirit to see what came out on the other side. There were many times that I would quote a scripture, and as I heard myself saying it, I knew that what I had always been taught is not what it really meant; it had been taken out of context. I felt like I almost had to relearn what the Scriptures meant for the second time.

A few months passed. One Sunday, after church, the men were all sitting in a room visiting, and a young man started asking questions about going to heaven, about the church rules, and about the Bible. As I sat and listened to one of the elders give this young man all of the wrong answers and take Scripture out of context, I had a really hard time being quiet.

After thinking about it for a minute, I decided to not say anything and just sat back and listened instead. The young man was desperate for answers, though, and was not easily convinced because he had seen some things in the Bible that didn’t match up with what the rules of the religion said.

After listening to the Amish elder deceive the young man for about twenty to thirty minutes, the Holy Spirit finally took control of my mouth. I started asking this elder some questions about the things that he had said.

I heard myself saying things like, “Look at that scripture that you quoted; the verse before that says this ______________,” or “The verse after that says this _____________ and this ______________,” which, in most of the cases, completely destroyed his argument. I also began saying, “If what you said is true, what does this verse mean?” I heard myself quoting scriptures with references that I didn’t even know exactly where to find but that I knew were there.

Needless to say, the elder had a choice to make. He could either admit that he was wrong or try to defend himself. He decided to try to defend himself, but the Holy Spirit kept giving me Scriptures and truth to use in combat with his arguments, so his defense didn’t work. Soon, the elder became very angry and cursed me in front of everyone. Immediately afterward, everybody went home to their own houses.

That very week, the elder that argued with me went to the preachers and demanded that I be excommunicated right away. One of the preachers had been sitting in on the conversation that Sunday afternoon, and he didn’t think that I had said anything wrong.

Nonetheless, I was soon called in for a meeting, where I was asked all kinds of questions about what was said on the day of the argument. As I recalled the discussion, I was able to explain the true gospel to all of the religious leaders in the meeting.

The elder did not relent from his anger and decided to write a letter to the bishop and demand that he excommunicate me. Because of this, a few weeks later, a whole van load of bishops and preachers came from Pennsylvania, and they called me to another meeting. This time, again, the Holy Spirit took control of me and used me to quote scriptures and to explain salvation by grace to all those in attendance.

At the end of the meeting, the head Bishop told me that although he couldn’t really say that what I was saying was not true, he knew that it was not the way that our forefathers had taught us. I asked him what he was going to believe, what he knew to be true or what the forefathers taught him. He responded by saying, “Our forefathers taught us that we cannot leave this kind of talk alone, because if left alone, it causes much disunity and division in the church. So we don’t know any better than to do what our forefathers have taught us. If you are not willing to let go of your ideas of salvation, we are going to have to excommunicate you.”

I told them that there was no way that I was going to agree to the idea that it was not the Holy Spirit that had saved me and that was teaching me the truth, because if I did, I would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They then excommunicated me and my wife, since she too stood by my side and believed in Salvation by faith alone.

After the bishop quoted his memorized speech and a scripture about giving us over to Satan to destroy our flesh, I looked at them all and said, “You have taken it upon yourselves to fight against the Spirit of God, but I’m going to pray for you.” With that, they all hung their heads, turned around, went out to their buggies, and left.


This testimony has been published with permission from the owner.

. . . . . . . . . .

Copied from here:

http://www.mapministry.org/news/2017/07/11/eli-lee#comments

Exhaustion

That feeling of wanting to tell people about the things that are troubling you because maybe someone who is reading it can relate and not feel so alone themselves, or maybe someone could offer hope, but holding back the details because the echo of “who cares?” rings on in a mocking tone…

Knowing that few to no people read my blog, I am relatively safe to go with my first feeling and do some venting.

My blog here on WordPress is not like the dreaded Facebook where any one of 560 people might suddenly decide to post a rude comment to make themselves feel superior and knock me down a little further.

Why do I have such volatile people on my friend list in the first place? Well, they don’t show that side at first. It’s not until they get to know me more that they see things about me that they dislike and they feel safe to blast me.

Wow, does that ever sound familiar. That was the case with the ex. He seemed so nice at first. And he sure saw a lot about me that he disliked. I did him a favour and removed my reprehensible self from his presence, but he took it as an offense and did all he could do to punish me for leaving.

Of course, that is far in the past, yet he and his new wife retain an interest in keeping tabs on me. They find out about things I write on my Facebook timeline when it is set so supposedly only “friends” can read it. I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want to be read by them, but it is strange that they get my news without being on my friend list.

Apparently, someone on my friend list is an informant.

I must be important!

Sometimes I don’t feel like being so visible, so I retreat to another Facebook account that contains a smaller number of friends, none affiliated with the ex and co.

They all might read this, too.

I don’t care.

On an unrelated note, today I drank too much coffee. I had three cups. Normally, I have one or zero cups. It is late in the evening. I want to sleep but am too caffeinated, so I am writing here.

And today was emotionally exhausting.

That is all I will say about that.

I wish some really nice person would read this and message me with an offer to come take me to a cabin in the wilderness for free, telling me the only catch is that I produce at least 200 pages of my book draft before they will return to bring me home.

The really nice person could give me a day to pack. I’d bring my laptop, my journals, a toothbrush, toothpaste, some clothes, and some food.

The really nice person would come pick me up, drive me to the cabin, and then drive back to my house to care for my kids while I am gone. They would be a patient and loving soul, able to coach my family on the importance of initiative in doing chores, explaining to them how much it has been killing me to be the manager and executor of far more than a mother should do, and that if they don’t lighten her load considerably, her next departure will be permanent, as her strength will have expired and death will claim her.

I am tired. Maybe my mind will slow down and I can sleep.

Tomorrow might be better. Or worse. Who knows?

(And yeah… Who cares?)

Exercise Routines of a Mother of Seven

I posted some pictures of my abs in an internet forum. A few ladies wanted to know what my exercise routine has been to get to this state after seven children. Well, personally, I am not happy with the way I look, and my post was intended to ask what I can do to get rid of waist fat. Maybe I’ve become a victim of Barbie Doll mentality, and probably shouldn’t worry so much about it, but I do.

Maybe some of what I’ve done will work 1000x better for others with a propensity to have better results. My legs are long, which cuts in on the amount of space between hip bones and rib cage, so I can’t expect to have a small waist. Still, I do want it a bit smaller.

Before I ever had any kids, I was into aerobic workouts. Since after I graduated from high school in 1985 and no longer had the “ten-miles-uphill-both-ways-barefoot” walk to keep me fit (truly, it was more like 2 miles downhill on the way there, and of course uphill on the way home), I started going to local gymnasiums where someone would lead a 30 minute workout in the late 1980s. The cost added up, though, and so I eventually put together cassette tapes of my own favorite songs and worked out to music in my house.

Then I discovered free workout videos on TV. I recorded them on a VCR and did them a few times a week.

In late fall of 1990, my ex-mother-in-law sent me a compilation of workouts, which I used while caretaking a barge that fall and winter in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It contained a couple of workouts by Jane Fonda, some by Kathy Smith, and one by some other people who didn’t impress me so I only tried the workout once and forgot their names.

During my first pregnancy, in 1992, I walked a lot on the mud flats of Muddy River, Alaska, during low tide. In my third trimester, I brought my mountain bike up from my old house in Washington and rode it around the logging roads. After my baby was born, I waited six weeks before launching back into workouts, starting with the gentler Jane Fonda workout and eventually working my way back to the longer one.

After my second pregnancy, I got a device called “The Ab-Flex”, which was supposed to help core muscles. I don’t know if it really helped, or if it was more to do with the aerobic video tape that came with it. THAT was awesome. It worked a lot of muscles and made me sweat. Here it is on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4FJk9MRXSc

That video was my go-to, other than Jane Fonda now and then, and it helped me get back to my pre-pregnancy size and stay in shape. I used it after my third, fourth, and fifth babies, but it broke shortly after my sixth was born, so then I sought out a new copy. It seems to be rare and I couldn’t find one anywhere, so I opted for a few others. I tried a 15 minute routine by Teresa Tapp, and also one called “New Dimension” by Cindy Crawford. The latter I enjoyed very much and was able to start on it easily six weeks postpartum. It has a super gentle beginners level of about 15 minutes. The next level up is a few minutes longer but quite a bit more intense as it uses some hand weights. Then the third level is too long for my tastes, at over 40 minutes. I did it once and never did it again.

Six weeks after my seventh baby was born, I worked my way back into the Cindy Crawford DVD. That first routine is also nice for when I got out of the habit of working out for several months. I’d do it every other day for a couple of weeks and then start on the next level.

I forgot to mention that in 2001, after my fifth baby was born, I discovered Leslie Sansone walk videos. I got a couple of those and loved them. I also was using a stair-stepper machine at home, with computerized programs. I’d put on a headset, listen to music for a half hour, and stair-climb. For about 15 minutes of it, I’d also use hand-weights of 5 lbs each.

In 2012, I bought a Jillian Michaels DVD called “The 30 Day Shred”. I hated it, but I challenged myself to stick with it for 30 days. I documented my experiences throughout in a blog: https://ificandoityoucanprobablydoit.blogspot.ca/2012/03/level-1-day-1.html

I now have settled in with Leslie Sansone walk DVDs. My favorites are “Tone Every Zone”, the strength sessions of which I do with 6 lb and 8 lb hand weights; “Mix & Match Walk Blasters”, which is ten different ten-minute segments you can pre-program on your DVD player (I do three at a time, but sometimes four); and “Walk It Off In 30 Days”. The latter is the most intense Leslie Sansone workout I have ever done and I really like it. I also use 6 and 8 lb weights for the strength session, which is 30 minutes long, and I use 3 lb weights for the 30 minute cardio workout. I guess we’re supposed to alternate days, but I usually end up doing it more like 4-5 days a week rather than 7.

Oh, and walking. Walking is something I can’t overestimate as being important. A good quick pace for a half hour, with a few hills thrown in, feels so good. I started mixing it up with running last spring for HIIT (high intensity interval training). I’d do 25-30 minutes of that out in the rolling hills and winding country roads near my house, at least 3 times a week, plus extra walking just for fun, depending on where I felt like going.

Last fall, I bought a used treadmill for $50. I enjoy it, but it is in my un-insulated basement, which is very cold in winter, so I didn’t use it at all in December, January, or February. It’s great for doing HIIT workouts with a headset full of music, but not nearly as fun as being outdoors.

Of course, diet is important, too. In 2009, after my seventh baby, when I got up to 180 lbs, I was having a hard time losing the weight. Cutting calories and doing my usual exercise routines weren’t helping me get below 160 lbs. I had several other health concerns, too, and so I went to my naturopath. He told me to do the anti-Candida diet. The gist of that is to cut out all sugar – an addiction that is tough to break, but so worth it – and also I couldn’t have all kinds of other things I’d habitually eaten. Finally the weight started coming off. I got back to 120 lbs within eight months.

I am now 130 lbs, at 5’6″, but want to get back to 125, which has been my norm for the past decade or two, except for a few times when I dipped to 115 during some severe depression and heavy stress – I don’t want to be depressed and underweight, though.

I’ve been trying the ketogenic diet, and although I like the foods that are involved, I’m not having much success in losing the ten pounds I gained this winter. I’ve lost four pounds since starting in January, now three months ago. Maybe because I am 51, I need to accept 130 as the new 120? I hope not.

I guess that’s about it. I am looking forward to getting back into HIIT outside as soon as the snow and ice are gone around here.