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Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Savior's Love: A Poem

In the virgin light of morning
In the fields with flowers adorning
In the vibrant sun that’s setting
In the mercy of forgetting
I see my Savior’s love.

In the widow’s lonely cry
In the untimely good-bye
In regret for misspent past
In fear of death at last
I see my Savior’s love.

When my joy is made complete
When I’m bowed down in defeat
When good fortune’s sent my way
When the bill demands its pay
I see my Savior’s love.

In all things, good and bad
When we’re joyous, content, or sad,
In every time and place
We see him face to face.
Our Savior brings his love.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Little Boo Boo, Big Problem

I am a writer, and writers write.  Primarily, I type.  But last Tuesday I was cutting some pork chops for supper, and I was going too fast with the knife my husband had recently sharpened at my request.  No one noticed when I was suddenly standing in front of the sink, water from the faucet diluting the blood that was running down the drain.  My husband noticed when I was kneeling in front of the sink, my hand still dangling over the basin, choosing to sit before I fell.  My kids noticed when I ordered them to pause their TV (they've never watched anything that wasn't either on DVD or DVR) and get off the couch, because Mama needed to lie down.  Tom brought me the blue bucket that is better known for catching throw-up than mopping floors, just in case.

Fortunately the bucket wasn't put into service, Tom finished cutting the pork chops, and the cut on my finger, though deep, didn't require stitches (or even a trip to the emergency room).

But it did make it very difficult to type.



OK, so the picture makes it look like just a little boo boo, but believe me, it bled and it hurt!

My boo boo wound was located on the tip of my left index finger, exactly where I press down on my old, somewhat heavy IBM keyboard.  If I twisted my finger enough to avoid hitting that part of it, all the other fingers on my left hand missed their keys.  So I had to take a short break from most of my writing.  The fact that I couldn't type well enough to write a new blog post wasn't a big deal, since I only blog sporadically anyway, and a two-week or more gap between posts is not unusual even under normal circumstances.  But I'm frantically trying to get a large cushion of devotions for my May 19 relaunch of Quiet Devotions on www.QuietPublications.com.  The goal I've set for myself is to write at least seven each week, preferably ten.  Last week I wrote two.  I've fallen behind again this week, but hope to catch up.

On the other hand (or perhaps I should say 'with' the other hand, if I'm going to be literal about it) I've been getting a little more done on my novel.  While most of it is typed in a Word doc on my desktop, I also keep a copy of it on my phone for reference.  And I keep a little notebook and pen in my purse, for when I have some extra time and don't happen to be near my computer.  Or, in this case, for when my computer keyboard closely resembles a medieval torture device.

I'm able to type better now, but it does still hurt after a few minutes.  So I'm writing this post and I'll try to catch up on this week's devotions, but I'm going to wait a bit before I type up the new handwritten pages for my novel.

And I've been a lot more respectful of that knife!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Banking on Our Ignorance

The FDA is currently soliciting opinions regarding a petition they've received from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).  In brief, the petition is requesting that the definition of 'milk' and seventeen other dairy products be changed to include the addition of "non-nutritive" sweeteners (such as aspartame) as an optional ingredient.  This would mean that while aspartame would be included on the list of ingredients, it wouldn't be called out anywhere else on the label.

There are so many posts I could write about why this is a bad idea.  I've already mentioned in another post about the challenges involved in not letting my family be a chemistry experiment at mealtime, but dozens of other bloggers have already covered that territory.  Google 'aspartame in milk' and you'll find plenty of them.

What bothers me about this is the reasoning behind the petition.  Putting non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame in milk and milk products is already allowed, but the label has to advertise the addition by calling it "reduced calorie" or the like.  According to the IDFA and NMPF, however, "nutrient content claims such as 'reduced calorie' are not attractive to children."  They also state that "consumers do not recognize milk—including flavored milk—as necessarily containing sugar..[and] milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can 'more easily identify its overall nutritional value.'"

In other words, milk sales are down and people are too stupid to understand what they're drinking, so let's not confuse them with too much information so they'll just buy our product.

Where do I begin?

I appreciate the fact that they at least stated the real cause behind this petition: they're trying to combat slumping sales.  Of course, this statement was buried towards the end of the petition after several paragraphs detailing how this action would enable the milk industry to promote healthful eating practices and combat childhood obesity.  Particularly amusing, however, is their assertion that redefining milk to disguise the fact that it contains artificial sweeteners would somehow "promote honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace."

Explain to me how allowing the exact same label be displayed on milk-as-we-know-it and on milk containing aspartame promotes honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace.  The argument they're making is that the difference is called out on the ingredients list, but the truth is that they're counting on the fact that most people don't read the ingredients list.  People glance at the label, process the data that is readily available, and make a quick value judgment.  That's why products that claim to be "all natural" sell so well, even if there's nothing healthful about the 'all natural' ingredients.  (Did you know that cyanide is all natural?)  Many people buy wheat bread thinking it's healthier than white bread, but several brands of wheat bread have no more dietary fiber than their white counterparts.  People would know that if they read the nutritional value information, but they don't.  They just take a quick look at the label, see the word 'wheat,' and assume it's healthier.  The requirement that added sweeteners currently require the label to say "reduced calorie" turns off some buyers (and attracts others, but apparently not the ones the milk industry is targeting: children).

At present, the IDFA and NMPF claim they just want to be able to add these artificial sweeteners to milk products that are already being sweetened by regular sugar (i.e. chocolate milk).  However, the wording of the petition makes no distinction or limitation.  If this is approved as written, plain, regular milk may suddenly sprout aspartame with no indication other than a tiny notation in the ingredients list.  Given that there is evidence that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are addictive, I can see how this could certainly help solve the problem of slumping sales.

The IDFA and NMPF know that consumers are largely ignorant of what's actually in what they consume, and they're banking on that ignorance.  When's the last time you looked at both the nutritional information and the ingredients list of a product you buy regularly?  Or even of one that you only buy every once in a while?  Would you notice if your milk suddenly included an artificial sweetener in the ingredients list if the label stayed the same?

Pay attention to what you're eating and drinking.  Regularly check the nutritional information and the ingredients list.  You'll probably be surprised by what you see; I know I was.  And I've drastically changed my shopping and eating habits as a result.  You may, or your may not.  But whatever you do, you should do it will full knowledge and awareness.

The IDFA and NMPF think we're stupid.  Let's not prove them right.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Literary Pursuits - March 2013

I have a tendency to start projects and then, well, not finish them.  It happens with crafts, books I'm reading, and writing projects.  Since crafting is not a priority right now, my quilt, the kids' bedroom curtains, Naomi's dress, my sweater, and my latest afghan shall continue to languish in silent anonymity.

But I want to have better accountability with my reading and writing projects, and public humiliation seems as good a way as any to achieve that.

So as a (more or less) monthly feature of this blog, I'm going to post an update about my various literary pursuits.

First off, reading.  It's been quite a while since I've only had one book going at a time.  Currently I'm reading four-ish books (you'll understand the -ish when you get to it on the list).  Most of this information is also on Goodreads, but I've decided to post it here, too.

1.  How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis:  First published in 1890 (yes, that's eighteen-ninety--I didn't transpose my numbers there) Riis chronicles his experiences in the tenement neighborhoods of New York.  I love sociology and picked up this book eagerly, but while it's been informative (disturbingly so) it's also been a bit of a slog.  I started reading it last summer, and I'm still working on it.  Almost done, though.  Currently on page 232.  Hopefully this book will not appear on next month's installment of Literary Pursuits.

2.  Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson:  Recommended by my husband, this science fiction book has an interesting premise and is very well-written.  However the chapters were originally independently published serials, and reading them one after the other is a bit tedious.  It's a long book (571 pages) so I may be here for a while.  I'm currently on page 217.

3.  Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  I might have been a little premature picking up this one.  I'm reading it partly because I've always wanted to, and partly because I'm planning to edit and publish a bible study I wrote several years ago based on themes in Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship.  I believe there's no such thing as too much Bonhoeffer, so I'm reading Ethics before I re-read Cost of Discipleship in an effort to better get into Bonhoeffer's thinking.  It's very dense, but brilliant.  I'm currently on page 41, though I haven't picked it up in over a month.

4.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  A favorite I've read several times.  I keep a library of classics on my Android so I'm never caught someplace without something to read, but my reading of a book this way is sporadic at best.  Hard to say what page I'm on since phone versions are so variable, but I can say with confidence that I'm in chapter 12.

-ish.  The Gospel According to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles:  I'm trying to put a bible study I wrote last year into a format I can publish through Quiet Publications, and that's requiring me to go back and rework some of the lessons.  Originally I had Luke-Acts as a single lesson, which was way too long.  However separating them into two separate lessons has enabled me to expand my treatment of each slightly, so I'm rereading these two books to figure out how best to do that.  (It's an -ish because they're part of the bible, which I'm not currently reading in its entirety.  Or you could consider them two separate books in a single bound anthology.  Or you could consider them one book in two volumes.  Numbering it -ish was just easier!)

Now for what I'm writing.

1.  Quiet Devotions:  Last time I started Quiet Devotions, I only had six in the vault.  With a daily publication schedule, I soon began to struggle to keep up.  I fought stubbornly and kept it going for nearly ten months before I had to admit defeat.  I plan to relaunch Quiet Devotions on Pentecost Sunday (May 19) and have been trying to write a few each week (minimum seven, preferably ten--I usually fall short).  Currently I have 58 in the vault (up through July 15).  Each month I'll indicate the number written since I last reported.

2.  Gospel Agendas Bible Study:  This is my reason for rereading Luke and Acts.  I've completed the introduction, Session One, and Session Two.  I'm currently expanding Sessions Three and Four.

3.  Novel:  I'm going to be vague on the details of this one until it's closer to being finished.  My official word count is at 6,051, plus some handwritten pages in my travel notebook.

4.  Memoir:  This will chronicle my faith journey and ministry.  Working title: Failed Pastor.  You get the picture.  Anyway, current word count is 6,461.

5.  Quiet Publications Misc:  I'm not working on anything this moment (other than the bible study), but I've recently published an article and two book reviews on Quiet Publications.  I hope to continue doing that sort of thing on a somewhat regular basis.

6.  Blog:  Looking at my posts since the beginning of the year I see that I've been cheating by doing mostly memes or promotions for Quiet Publications.  I'm in the process of revamping this blog (hence the new look), and it will soon have another new look, and a new address.  But more on that later.  In any case, it's time to start getting back here again a little more often, and letting all my adoring fans (go ahead and roll your eyes--I just did) know what's going on with me.  This post you're reading now is a good start.

So those are my literary pursuits as they stand now.  What are you reading or writing?