Gluten-Free Food “Replacement” List

Today I ran into a lady who had just been diagnosed gluten-intolerant.  She was in the gluten-free aisle at the store trying to figure out what would taste good without making her sick.  I realized on the way home that I gave them the wrong website address.  So even though this is my writing blog, I’m posting this here too.  (So sorry about the wrong address…the correct one is www.satisfactionandbeyond.com.  That’s where all the gluten-free information is.)

After a few years off of gluten, things seem pretty easy, and I’ve gone through the trial and error aspect of buying things that look good but taste awful, look awful but taste good, are horrible without being toasted but almost taste the same as you remember if you toast it, and all the combinations in between.  I’ve played with baking and cooking and it’s all okay.  But for someone on that first day of diagnosis, none of it seems easy.

So here’s a list of things for those newly diagnosed.  You’ll see plenty of sugary and higher carbohydrate foods on this list, because sometimes people want those foods.  I’ll always encourage meat, veggies, fruits, and nuts…but there are birthday parties, family gatherings, and well, just days when a sandwich or a cookie or a cake are going to be eaten.  If it’s going to be eaten, then it needs to be gluten-free.

 

ALL OF THESE PRODUCTS CAN CHANGE INGREDIENTS WITHOUT ME KNOWING OR UPDATING THIS SITE, SO PLEASE ALWAYS READ LABLES.

 

BAKING (including cookies, cakes, pancakes, etc):

www.betterbatter.org This flour and the pancake and biscuit mix are some of the best I’ve tried.  They’re also corn, soy, egg and dairy-free (there was an issue with dairy contamination via one of their suppliers that is being resolved, but no problems with gluten)  The hamburger bun recipe on their site is great.

www.NamasteFoods.com This company is perhaps may favorite across the board.  They are gluten, dairy, corn, egg, soy, potato, tree nuts, peanuts, and casein-free.  I use their bread mix, their pizza crust mix, and use the pasta mixes when making something to take to a party.  You can find some of their products at Whole Foods and Hy-Vee locally in Kansas City, and you can order in bulk at Amazon.  I’ve not yet tried their cookie or cake mixes.

www.enjoylifefoods.com These guys are very allergen-friendly as well as gluten-free.  Their chocolate chips are some of the only ones that are both gluten and dairy-free.  We’ve had their premade bars and think they are better than average.  Their granola didn’t suit us well.  We’ve not tried the newer crunchy cookies.  Hy-Vee and Whole Foods carry some of their stuff here in KC.

http://www.nutsonline.com Who would have thought…but it is really hard to find some types of nuts that are processed in places that don’t also process wheat.  One day while getting ready to buy some nuts from the bulk section, a store employee was refilling the barley flour and it was flying everywhere.  Suddenly I realized why I sometimes got sick with the nuts I was eating.  NutsOnline has fantastic customer service, and they also have a gluten-free section.

Tropical Source These are regular-sized chocolate chips that are gluten and dairy-free…but they are hard to find.  When Amazon.com sells them, you can get 3 bags for about 12.00.  But when Amazon is out and it’s someone else selling on Amazon, the price is a crazy 40.00+ for 3 bags.  I’ve never seen them locally.

www.ener-g.com If you want something close to a white hamburger bun, the tapioca hamburger buns from these guys (once toasted!) will remind you of the buns you get at a restaurant…same is true of the hotdog buns.  I’ve also used their egg-replacer and it works really well if you have egg allergies.  Hy-Vee carries these and sometimes Whole Foods does too.

www.kinnikinnick.com Their S’moreables really do taste like graham crackers, and their graham-style crumbs work great to make graham cracker crusts.  If corn is an issue for you, these will be off limits, but otherwise, they’re a great replacement.  My hubby loves their K-Toos chocolate sandwich cookies, and I’ve used them to make a cookie crust for deserts for him.  Hy-Vee and Whole Foods sometimes carry these.

http://www.pamelasproducts.com Their bread mix works pretty well, but I don’t use it because there is a chance of dairy contamination that my hubby can’t have.  Pamela’s also has cookie mixes, cake mixes, and pancake mixes as well as pre-made cookies, cheesecakes, and biscotti’s.  They use almond meal that provides a bit more protein and nutrition which is nice.  HyVee and Whole Foods carry lots of Pamela’s

Domata Flour This is a great 1:1 flour.  I use Better Batter instead of this because Domata has corn in it, and I can’t have corn.  But it worked great when I tried it, and my niece uses it.  It’s available in Kansas City at Hy-Vee and Whole Foods.

Bob’s Red Mill  They have almond flour/meal (and other nut versions) as well as a line of gluten-free mixes and gluten-free oats.  I’ve used some of their products, but mostly when I was mixing things together myself before finding Better Batter and Namaste.  These are more “see if you like it” things in my opinion.

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free mixes The chocolate cake was made, frosted, and shared with friends without anyone knowing it was gluten-free…and everyone loved it.  The cookies taste good (although made-from-scratch with Better Batter flour taste more like homemade), and the yellow cake mix is the best I’ve found albeit not as good as the chocolate.  ** UPDATE The chocolate mix has had soy added to it since the last time I used it, and the yellow cake says it “may” contain soy.  As a result, we’ll no longer be using or recommending them.

 

BREADS and CEREALS

Rudi’s This is a pre-made bread.  It’s okay, but I never found it to be really tasty the way the Namaste bread is when I made it.  I’ve not tried some of the newer versions.  This is available locally at Whole Foods and possibly other stores.  **UPDATE I’ve since tried the newer Rudi’s Original Gluten-Free Bread and really love it.  It’s the only non-homemade gf bread I’ve ever had that could be pulled out and eaten without toasting it.  They make a multi-grain version that we’ve not tried because it has corn.  Whole Foods carries it locally.

Udi’s This is also pre-made, and again, I think it’s okay but nothing fantastic.  However, their granola is amazing!  I think my hubby had the chocolate muffins and liked them too.  These are available at Whole Foods and Hy-Vee.

Perky’s/Enjoy Life Perky’s was bought out by Enjoy life, but the crunchy rice and crunchy flax cereals are good…not quite rice crispies, but safe and still tasty.  The granola was just not that good.  It was okay, but the texture is off.  Hy-Vee and Whole Foods carry these sometimes.

French Meadows Their rice breads were okay’ish.  I would buy them if nothing else I liked was available, but otherwise, they just weren’t that great.  My hubby loved the chocolate chip cookie dough when it was raw, but didn’t like the cookies when they were cookied.  Whole Foods carries them and HyVee does too, I think.

Food For Life Their brown rice tortilla wraps worked great and tasted really good too.  Hy-Vee carried them for a while, but now they seem to be gone.  www.glutenfreemall.com still seems to have them.  The brown rice English Muffins taste great too when toasted.  Hy-Vee carries them and I think the Whole Foods on Metcalf started carrying them too.

Dad’s Gluten Free Pizza http://www.glutenfreepizza.com These are highly allergy friendly, and they taste great for a pre-made crust.  If you have corn issues, let them know and they’ll make some for you that don’t have corn.  For a pre-made crust, these are my favorites.

 

PASTA

Tinkyada is probably the best brand I’ve tried (Namaste is equally good, if not better, but they only sell pasta in “kits”).  I’ve seen it at Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Hen House, and Price Chopper in KC.

Namaste (see above for links) has great pasta kits.  The “cheese” version doesn’t taste like mac’n’cheese, but it does taste like a pasta salad.

Amy’s Kitchen They make some gluten-free as well as gluten and dairy-free frozen foods.  My hubby loves the mac’n’cheese.  I love the mild salsa and the family marinara.  I hear they’re coming out with gf burritos, but not until June of this year.

 

PASTA SAUCE

Prego You can find it just about in any store (although not Whole Foods), and it is gluten-free.

Amy’s Kitchen Their marinara is not certified gf, but I’ve never had a reaction to it (and I’ve eaten it a lot).  Whole Foods has the best price locally, but Hy-Vee carries it too.

 

CHIPS

KettleBrand chips are gluten-free.  They have one of the only BBQ flavored chips I’ve seen that are gluten, dairy, egg, corn, and soy-free.  I’ve seen them at lots of stores….for sure, HyVee, Whole Foods, and Hen House locally.

Garden of Eatin and Bearittos both make blue corn chips that are gluten-free as long as you don’t have problems with corn.

I’m sure there are other brands out there, but we don’t eat much of this sort of thing and avoid the more commercial brands because of the trans-fats and added ingredients.

 

RESTAURANTS

This is a difficult one for me because Matt and I have so many food allergies and such significant reactions when something we can’t have accidentally gets eaten.  In general, we don’t eat out.  However, we found two places that have remained safe.

Local Burger  http://www.localburger.com This restaurant is in Lawrence, KS, so it isn’t super close, but we’ve eaten there 3 times without any problems at all.  They understand food allergies and the owner has celiac.  It’s a bit pricey, but it is also very high quality.

Wendy’s They list their chili and baked potato as gluten-free and dairy free.  I’ve not eaten there, but Matt sometimes goes with his work crowd or when he is out and about…and so far he hasn’t had a problem.

There are other places around town listed as gluten-free, but needing them to also be dairy, corn, soy, and egg-free pretty much limits us to the above two choices.  If other people have had great experiences somewhere here locally, please feel free to post.

 

OTHER

I’m sure I missed foods that people like to eat on a regular basis.  Our household is a lot more meat and veggies than anything else, but I’ve tried lots of other foods.  So if something is missing you want to know about, please leave a comment and I’ll get it added.

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Indie Publishing

After seven years of stop and go writing, intensive editing (and yet more editing), and several wonderful people who agreed to test-read, my first novel is about to be published.  Another project will grab my attention first, but I intend to be writing the next fiction book by August…it won’t take 7 years.  🙂

It was 4,428 in the queue when I uploaded my book to Smashwords earlier today.  That number is astonishing to me.  It will take about 24 hours before my book is through the queue which means that in just that one avenue of publishing, there are roughly 4500 books published each day.  Add in Kindle, Nook, Createspace, Lulu, and all the other publishing platforms, and that’s a whole lot of books.  Indie publishing makes that possible.

There are those who would say it’s crazy to go up against that sort of competition.  There are those who say that the only people who publish Indie are the people who can’t publish traditionally, but that’s an exaggeration.  The percentage of Indies who would make it with a publishing house is still about the same as it is in the general writing population…they just don’t have to go through the submission process or deal with some rejection before being accepted.  (They have other issues that go with any do-it-yourself project, so it isn’t as simple as it sounds.)  And then there are those who say Indie is the wave of the future.

I went Indie for a few reasons:

  1. No waiting — As soon as I’m done with edits and cover design, my book can be out there for the world to buy and read.
  2. Cost — I don’t get an advance, but I also don’t have to invest a ton of cash up front.
  3. Experience — I’m a new author.  Of course I want my work to be professional and well done, but the best way to achieve that is by working and improving each and every book.
  4. Platform — Traditional publishing isn’t extinct yet, and part of me hopes it’s never totally gone.  I love the feel, smell, and experience of reading a print book.  However, mobile reading devices have a lot of positive attributes too, and I love our Kindle.
  5. Competition — The amount of competition is staggering regardless of publishing route.  I tried to create a story people could love, but regardless of writing quality, it’s always the readers who make a book wildly popular.  Marketing helps and is vital, but readers are the driving force behind significant success.

Later this week I’ll announce my new novel and provide a link so you can read part of it before purchasing.  As things unfold, I’ll try to provide updates for other authors who might be searching for information for their own careers.

🙂
Kathryn

 

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The Day Gandalf Died

Lord Of The Rings is an epic tale.  There’s drama, good versus evil, elves, orcs, magic, wizards, hobbits, bittersweet love, Gollum, The Ring—how do you not love such an epic story?

There are many highs and lows in the book, but I remember the day Gandalf died.  As a reader, I was invested in him.  How dare Tolkien kill him! But if he hadn’t, the other characters would never have had their own adventures, struggles, and victories.  They would have all followed him and the story would have been very different.

I’m sure you’ve heard multiple stories about “calling the old man out,” but Tolkien couldn’t do that.  It would have been a disaster for us to see Gandalf as “fallen” or bested by anyone else in the party of travellers.  At best it would have just been a replacement for Gandalf, and at worst we never would have seen the other characters as clearly.  So instead, “You shall not pass” …and Gandalf literally fell.  We maintained our love and respect for him, grieved his loss, felt the vulnerability of the rest of the party, and went on our way all the while wondering what was going to happen next—how would the party survive without his strength and wisdom?

Wizard carving

But in life, it isn’t always like that.  Sometimes our mentors fall in a non-literal way—they take directions we’re not willing to follow, or sometimes we just see them for who they are instead of who we thought they were or who they were pretending to be.  We feel disappointed, often in ourselves as much as the other person.  How did I not see that coming?  How did I fall for all the deception? What do I do now?

I’ll share a small secret with you.  You didn’t see it coming because you were getting something you needed or at least thought you needed.  You fell for the deception because what you were seeing was a reflection of something/someone you desire to be.  That something/someone is most likely still good and honorable even if your fallen mentor is not.  And you’ll keep doing what you were doing because you were always on your own path…you might pick a new direction, a new map, or a new route, but you’ll keep going.  Hopefully it will be with new wisdom and a new understanding of your own motivations.

Some friends recently experienced the fall of a mentor, and I remember the loss of my own several years ago, so I wanted to take a moment to remind them that the day Gandalf died was the day the rest of the party solidified what was important in their lives and what needed to be done.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly ~Richard Bach

Butterfly

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Ninety-nine Bottles of Fear on the Wall

From time to time I’ll write a short story and post it.  They’ll be diverse and typically I won’t really edit them before posting.  Please let me know by posting in the comments section if you especially like one of them.

 

“Ninety-nine bottles of fear on the wall,” sang the warlock who watched their every move.

Take one down, pass it around, and there’s 98 bottles of fear on the wall…and one in my hand, Kayra thought to herself triumphantly.

She looked around the yard at her fellow prisoners.  Each of them had their own section of wall and their own bottles of fear.  Some had more than others, but all who remained in the yard had at least one bottle on their wall—bottles that no one else could remove for them.

Kayra’s own bottles mocked her.  She did her best to close their taunts and shrieks from her mind.

Two left, she thought as sweat dripped down her face and onto her standard issue t-shirt.  Still panting from the effort it had taken to remove it, she held bottle number three in her hand.  She thanked the Highers that it stopped screaming the moment she lifted it from the wall.  This one will break easily; she smiled as the cold glass of the bottle trembled in her hand.  She felt its heart racing, and Kayra cursed its maker for causing the enchanted bottles to feel like living creatures.  It made it even harder to destroy them.

The warlock who cursed them all left some of the bottles empty for his entertainment.  They would shriek and threaten like the others, but they were empty imitations of real fear.  Bottle number three had been one those.  Kayra knew he laughed at her from his observatory.  She’d felt him laughing for two weeks as she tried to find the courage to remove number three.  Bottle number four had burned her.  At least it’s gone from my wall. She looked at the burns on her hands and smiled at them.  The eventual scars are a small price to pay for my freedom.

Many of the bottles left at least a small mark as they fought to remain alive and whole.

Kayra stared at the last two bottles on her wall.  I should be excited, she thought.  She looked across the yard at Carrick.  One bottle remained on his wall.  It was tiny, and from the color of it, Kayra suspected it was as empty as her number three had been.  Carrick sat, as he had for the last five years, staring at the gate.  Etched constantly on his face was a look of longing and despair.

I will not be like Carrick! Kayra turned back to her own wall.  The fear in the bottles throbbed to the beat of her racing heart.  As she stared, the bottles grew in size.  Kayra wiped the sweat from her brow and looked again at Carrick.  Why doesn’t he just break that last bottle? The question added even more panic.

“You’re just like him.  You think you can be different, but you will never be free of us,” bottle number two sneered at her.

Kayra looked at the warlock’s observatory as she did each day.  He smiled at her.  He tortured them every second of every day with his cursed bottles, but he stood there looking as though he were the very incarnation of goodness.  For the first time since she had broken bottle ninety-nine and had learned what real pain felt like, she realized that she was suddenly more angry than scared.

Kayra grabbed for both bottles at the same time.  She wrenched them from the wall and screamed as their fear spilled over her.  She dropped to her knees, and with tears streaming down her cheeks, she beat the bottles against the base of the wall.  The glass shattered and the last of the warlock’s curse oozed into the dirt.

Kayra turned with the intention of destroying every bottle on every wall in the yard.  She ran toward Carrick’s wall first.

“You can’t take his fear,” the warlock’s voice boomed at her as she neared Carrick’s wall.

“Watch me,” she replied defiantly.

Carrick looked at her with more hope than she’d ever seen on another’s face.  She reached for his last bottle, but the bottle turned to mist.  Kayra’s hand repeatedly floated through it.

“Your bottle isn’t real, Carrick!  It turns to mist every time I try to grab it,” Kayra said.

Carrick narrowed his eyes and scooted away from her.  “Just because you don’t have any bottles, doesn’t mean that mine aren’t real!  You’re as bad as the warlock!” Carrick accused.

“I told you,” the warlock said with a detached shrug.

Kayra looked at Carrick and sadness filled her.  She realized it was part of the terms of their imprisonment.  Bottles on another’s wall were removable only by that person.

“It’s time for you to leave now,” the warlock commanded.  “Stay any longer and your wall will be refilled.”

Kayra walked past her wall on the way to the gate.  Already bottles were starting to accumulate on top of her wall.   No, she thought.  It isn’t my wall anymore. She rushed to the gate.

The gate remained closed as she approached.  “How do I go through?” Kayra asked the warlock.

“How did you break your bottles?” the warlock asked in return.

Kayra reached out and grabbed the gate.

Carrick saw her disappear, and he hated her.  The warlock smiled at him and then disappeared through the gate and back into his observatory.

Kayra didn’t realize until she stepped through the gate how dulled her senses had been by the fear on her wall.  She felt the warmth of the sun on her skin, enjoyed the soothing coolness of the breeze on her face, and smelled the intoxicating smell of green grass and earth.

Free at last! Then she opened her eyes and blinked.  In front of her were multiple paths, each with a shattered bottle marking its entrance.  Kayra recognized them as her bottles.  The shards and dust sparkled in the sunlight as though they had never been anything but delicate and pretty.  On this side of the gate, she doubted they could be anything else.

Kayra looked back at the exit she had just come through and saw the warlock standing there.  He smiled at her.  In order to leave, you must destroy your fear, she remembered him saying the first day she had been imprisoned.  She looked at the multiple paths marked with destroyed bottles.

“I could have left after I destroyed bottle number ninety-nine?” she asked the warlock.

He nodded, smiled at her, and sang, “Ninety-nine bottles of fear on the wall…” his voice trailed off as Kayra chose her path and left him.

copyright 2011, Kathryn J Woodall
Posted in Short Stories, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An interview with Stella about Mel Gibson’s new movie, The Beaver

(Just a bit of warning that this post is more spicy than most of my writing, but I hope you enjoy Stella.  🙂 )

KJ: It’s great to have you with us today, Stella.

Stella: When you say it that way it sounds like I’m nearly dead!  Are you going to tell people, “Stella’s no longer with us,” once the interview is over?  Pff!   I’m not that old!

KJ: I just meant that we’re honored to have you as a guest.

Stella: Don’t be too honored.  I’m only here because my agent said I had to be. (She flips her hair and glares at KJ)

KJ: (forcing a smile) I’ll have to remember to send a special thank you note to your agent.

Stella: Pff!  (Shaking her head and rolling her eyes) He’s an idiot, but for some reason people prefer to talk to him instead of me.

KJ: Yes, that is shocking.  So Stella, have you seen the new Mel Gibson movie, The Beaver?

The Beaver (2011) - IMDb

The Beaver (2011) - IMDb

Stella: No!  And I’m not going to watch it either.  It’s disgusting, that’s what it is. (Looking totally appalled)

KJ: What?!  It’s a heart-warming movie about a man using a puppet to deal with severe depression.  How is that disgusting?

Stella: Well for starters, I can’t tell if the movie is a documentary, discriminatory, or porn.

KJ: What!?!?

Stella: Maybe you haven’t seen the news the last few years, but Mel Gibson hasn’t exactly acted like a stable man.  I think they might have just paid Jodie Foster to follow him around and then they made a “movie” about it.

KJ: Now Stella, that’s not being very nice.

Stella: Pff!  Who said I was nice?  I’m honest.  It’s not easy to find an honest person these days, you know!  I’m just saying that if he’s already mentally disturbed, how do you know if he’s acting?  If I’m going to a documentary, I want to know up front that it’s a documentary.  That’s what I’m saying.

KJ: Would you watch it if it was labeled as a documentary?

Stella: Absolutely not!

KJ: Why not?

Stella: Documentaries are boring.  I don’t want to fall asleep in my popcorn and accidentally suck a kernel up my nose!  Besides, even if it isn’t a documentary it’s still discriminatory.

KJ: Stella, I really don’t think the movie is a documentary.  I might be sorry I asked, but why do you think The Beaver is discriminatory?

Stella: How thick are those classes you’re wearing?  Are you blind? (Stella leans forward and gets uncomfortably close to KJ’s face)

KJ: No.  But apparently I don’t share your unique view of the world.

Stella: Don’t be giving me attitude!  (She points a wrinkled finger in a threatening manner, before continuing) If it were you, me or any other woman…well, can you imagine them making a movie about how playing with our beaver and talking to it makes us feel better?  But let a man do it, and it’s okay to show it in normal theaters!  That’s sexual discrimination at its finest!

KJ: Stellaahh!

Stella: What? Are you Marlon Brando now?

KJ: (Exasperated) The beaver is a puppet.

Stella: (rolls her eyes) Just because it’s a puppet doesn’t mean it isn’t porn.  Hookers let their beavers talk for them too, but that doesn’t make them talk show hosts, now does it?  I know you aren’t very bright, but they could have used a lot of other animals for the puppet.  Well, not a lamb.

KJ: (hoping to salvage even part of the interview) Why couldn’t they have used a lamb?

Stella: Hello! Jodie Foster is the one they’re paying to follow Mel Gibson around. Silencing the lamb isn’t going to make him less crazy.

KJ: (Taking a deep breath) Stella, it isn’t a documentary, and it isn’t nice to say that Mel Gibson is crazy.  It isn’t porn either.  It’s just a movie about a man using a puppet beaver to reconnect with the people in his life and be the successful man he’s capable of being.

Stella: Oh!  I think I see where you’re going with this.

KJ: You do?

Stella: Yeah.  Mel Gibson just needs another puppet.

KJ: (Looking confused) Why does Mel need another puppet?

Stella: (Shaking her head at KJ’s ignorance) Well if they put another beaver on Mel Gibson’s other hand, they could call him a winner.  It worked for Charlie Sheen.  Well, at least until he got fired.  But hey, Charlie’s still got his beavers!

KJ: (sits in stunned silence)

Stella: Oh God!  They’re going to fire Mel Gibson, aren’t they?  Instead of having one foot out the door, he has one hand up a beaver.  What a shame.  He was a looker in his younger days!  I’d have let him play with my beaver.

KJ: Stella, this interview is over.

Stella: Fine by me.  I didn’t want to be here in the first place!  But I do have a question for you.

KJ: (Knowing the interview is ruined anyway) What’s your question?

Stella: Well, theoretically, if Mel was wearing a woodchuck instead of a beaver…how much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

KJ: Goodbye Stella.

Stella: (As KJ walks away) Remember to send that thank you note to my agent!  If you word it nicely, he might make me come back for another interview.

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A Kansas Tornado (what my dog has taught me)

The first time I saw Tornado, he was a tiny black bundle of fur wiggling around in a cardboard box, willing to give little puppy kisses to anyone who got close enough.  My boyfriend (now husband) had arranged to pick him up at a work party.  One look and I knew he was really too little to be leaving his mother and litter mates, but coming with us meant he got to live.

Tornado

Tornado wasn’t to be mine, but he didn’t know Matt and I had only been dating a few weeks, so he claimed me.  My husband swears that I only stayed with him because I couldn’t bear to leave Tornado.  I have to admit, I really do love that dog.  😉

 

For a dog who was supposed to live outside, he seems to enjoy sleeping in our bed.  Sometimes he even leaves me enough room to straighten my legs.  My husband grumbles about Tornado hogging the bed, crying if he can’t be in the room with me, and that remnants of his food are sometimes on our kitchen floor, but Tornado has taught me some pretty valuable things.

Because of his persistence at dropping tennis balls into them every time I go to the bathroom, I have learned that underwear actually make pretty good sling-shots.  I also learned that there really is no way to save face when your finest lacies are proudly tossed over your brother-in-law’s knee and licked.  Wrap them in newspaper, lock them in the hamper, bury all of it in cement, and Nado will still retrieve a pair of undies in two minutes…five minutes, tops.

Tornado taught me that a lot of UPS delivery people are terrified of dogs.  When the dog hides, waits until the UPS person is directly in the middle of the second of three large windows, and then jumps at the second window and barks ferociously—some UPS people will be so scared that they throw your packages in the air (and on the lawn or roof), fall into the bushes opposite the windows, and flail their arms and legs about like an excited baby.  I learned that you shouldn’t smile back or laugh when your dog looks at you and smiles after doing this because he will only want to make you laugh again.  (My apologies to that guy…I tried not to laugh, but really, you should have seen yourself.)  I also learned that you should tell your husband not to be proud that the dog learned it when said husband scared you the night before in a similar fashion…it only results in scheming about what else he might learn.

 

Tornado taught me that a dog is good company on a well-hidden, remote trail when a strange man believes you might make easy prey.  My sweet puppy bared his teeth, raised his fur, and growled fair warning that neither of us would go quietly.  When we both started walking toward him, the strange man decided that we were not choice prey after all.

When I miscarried, when my brother died only to be followed by a dear friend just a few months later, when I realized I would never have children of my own, and when I was so sick that I wasn’t sure I was going to live, Tornado made sure I knew I wasn’t alone.  He cried with me, licked away my tears, and begged me to be okay.  After all, “Dad” really wasn’t very good in the kitchen and was pretty stingy when it came to handing out treats.

When I did the happy dance that Matt and I were engaged, when we got the house we wanted, when my great nieces were born, when I finished my first novel, when my brother was pronounced to officially be in remission, and several other monumental occasions, Nado was there for those too, wagging his tail, smiling his best puppy smile, and rolling around on the floor in pure happiness with me.

 

Time has flown.  Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last week which means that Tornado is almost 12 years old.  He’s not a puppy anymore, but he’s still willing to give kisses to anyone who gets close enough.  There’s grey in his muzzle, on his paws, in his eyebrows, on his chest and in his tail.  (There’s also currently some paint in his tail, but that’s a different story.)  Some mornings I lift him off the bed so he doesn’t have to jump.  He still brings me tennis balls, but now he chases it down the hall a few times and then lays down for a massage.  I’m a push-over when it comes to him, so he gets the massages more often than not.  He wants to go for long walks, but he hurts if he does, so we take shorter routes than we once did.

 

The older he gets, the more I realize the day is fast approaching when he will no longer be by my side every possible second of the day or curled into my knees at night.  But for now, we still do yoga every day—he’s very good at one of the positions— and we still play each day.

Today while editing, Tornado wouldn’t stop nosing my arm off the keyboard or “side-lipping” me (putting his muzzle on my arm and then dragging it sideways which results in a bunch of slobber that is really quite gross).  Once upon a time I would have been frustrated with him.  But Tornado taught me that patience is a virtue, and patience (and persistence) with those you love is just good form.

 

I think the biggest lesson he continues to teach me every day is that there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be as good of a being as he is.  There isn’t a soul in his life who doesn’t know how he feels about them, he kisses those he loves most goodnight and good morning every day, and he balances work and play so that even in old age, he is happy and playful.

Good boy, Nado.  Good boy.  🙂

 

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Being a Geek and Author Injection

I’m a geek.  ThinkGeek is a good day of shopping.  Where else can you get a t-shirt with a Ferrous Wheel on it?  Being able to research any question I have thanks to Google is awesome.  And I’m all sorts of excited that there is a new X-men movie due out this June.  I’m the adult who as a kid went door to door selling garden seeds to earn a microscope or telescope.  BTW, thank you to all those people who aided my cause—I still have the microscope and have great memories of watching the night sky through the telescope aimed out my window when I was supposed to be sleeping.  🙂

 

I think my geekiness stems from a constant curiosity.  How’s this work?  Where’d that saying come from?  What’s the difference between this and that?  Is all the sand on this beach really from the ocean or do they truck some of it in from somewhere else?  Seriously…4-5 blocks away from the water and there’s still sand!  At what point does it become a dessert instead of a beach?

A couple books have come my way over the last few years and I find them especially interesting because I know the author or someone in the author’s family.  While the books are good entertainment and are meant to be pure fiction, I see pieces of the author—the biases, emotions, beliefs, hopes, disappointments, habits, fears, humor, and personality of the real person emerge while writing a fictional story.  (Good or bad, I see it in my own writing too.)

 

Being aware of “author injection” brings an entirely new layer to the experience of reading and writing.  A stranger reading the book has no idea what is purely fiction and what is a piece of the author’s life, but a friend or even acquaintance reading the book thinks, Whoa!  That’s so Joe! (or whatever the author’s name is)  I think the amazing part of it is that “Joe” may not even realize it’s him.  In the case of Steven King, I’m morbidly curious how much is him.  But then again, that could be one of those things for which I regret learning the answer.

 

What intrigues me about author injection is this: Do we perform “author injection” onto other people we interact with?  In other words, do we see other people for who they are, or do we only see various actions and then fill in their story with our own ideas/biases/beliefs?  If we do, it works both ways.

 

The geek in me thinks that author injection is important.  There’s the obvious impact it can have on our relationships with others, but there’s a more subtle lesson as well….  What’s your own author injection doing to your life?

Let me explain via an example:

The person who lies all the time thinks it’s normal.  They’re used to the way people treat them, the way they treat others, and they have no idea that everyone else isn’t as stressed over eventually being caught in a lie.  It’s all they’ve ever known.

The person who doesn’t lie all the time thinks that honesty is normal.  They know the rewards for living an honest and honorable life and it’s easy for them to see the harm the liar is doing personally and socially.  They’ve been lied to and have lied themselves, but that isn’t how they choose to live most of the time.

Now imagine that you’re the liar in that example.  Via author injection, do you know why lying is the story you live?  And just as importantly, what if you could see through another author’s eyes…what if you could glimpse a different version or yourself and see a different ending to your own story?

Now for the really powerful part of author injection, imagine that author injection is what’s really happening in some area of your life that’s causing you pain, grief, or stress.

 

Apply that to a health issue, a friendship, a marriage, your work.  The possibilities are endless.  Ask yourself if your own author injection is preventing you from seeing a solution.  What if instead of thinking, That’s just the way it is, you asked yourself, What if it  doesn’t have to be this way? If anyone else anywhere is living the story you wish you could, then it’s possible (and even highly likely) that your own author injection is hi-jacking your success and enjoyment.  Don’t let that happen.  It’s okay to put down a bad book and find a better read.  😉

 

Be a geek for a day and ask how life could be more fulfilling, happier, and healthier.

 

Like Spock says, live long and prosper.

🙂
Kathryn

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CFS: A Novel (A book review)

A friend recommended CFS: A Novel to me a few weeks ago. Since Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that affected some of my past clients, I decided to read it. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be an entertaining fictional story that incorporated a fair amount of fact about CFS.

The main character is a reporter who lives on a farm outside a small town. Several people in her community suddenly get a strange illness that sounds like CFS. While CFS has always been described as a psycho-somatic illness, (i.e., “It’s all in your head”) the local doctor knows that description doesn’t fit the people in her community. It also doesn’t make sense that it would occur in multiple people at the same time if it was a psychological disorder. Eventually the doctor seeks the aid of the reporter to research the condition. That research pulls a community together to find answers and get results.

CFS: A Novel reels you into an action-adventure story involving friendship, romance, insurance cover-ups, and small scale war. It’s a fun read with endearing characters and a rather wild climax. But the book also does a good job of telling the real story of what happens with people who develop CFS – the struggles they go through and the difficulty in finding the right treatment are outlined as the characters seek answers and solutions.

Even though it is a work of fiction, I think that reading the story might help family members understand more about what someone with CFS goes through. It can be very frustrating for a patient to hear that it’s all in her/his head, but when family members don’t realize how ill they are, things get even more difficult. If you’re a patient dealing with CFS, reading the story might help just to know that you aren’t alone.

So, if you or anyone you know deals with CFS, I highly recommend reading this book. At the end of the book the author provides a link to a website loaded with research about the disease and some treatments that are working. For someone with CFS, that by itself is worth the price of the book.

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When Fiction Is No Stranger To Truth

I admit it; I ask, “Why, what, and how?” more than most two and three year olds do.  While this has been known to irritate my friends and husband, sometimes the results are valuable and certainly worth knowing.

As I was writing my first novel, I wanted to make sure that the characters were strong.  You see, most books have a very basic story.  Piers Anthony and a lot of his Xanth series can be summed up into:

1.      The main character has a question that he/she/they can’t answer or a conflict they don’t know how to resolve.

2.      They go see the magician of information.  He sends them on a quest or errand. (It’s been a while, so there might be some when they go on a quest without the magician and I just don’t remember, but regardless, a quest is involved.)

3.      By the end of the book, their question has been answered or the conflict resolved via the quest.

And at a deeper level, they all follow Joseph Campbell’s theory of The Hero’s Journey.

Put that way it doesn’t seem like anyone could read more than 1-2 books without losing interest, but there are 34 published books in the series with one in production for this year and another being written to be released next year.  I’ve read over 20 of them.  Why do I and thousands of others keep reading what is, at its most basic level, the same story?  Although I love the puns, it isn’t just because they’re filled with great puns.

We read them because the ‘why, what, and how’ intrigues us and Anthony uses those questions to create strong characters we relate to.  How is this character going to get out of a tricky situation?  Why would someone behave that way?  How will they ever change enough to accomplish their task?  And combined with the ups and downs of the journey each character must take, the author entertains us with pure fun.

While I could resolve character conflicts with a mysterious “it just is,” that wouldn’t allow you to bond with them.  The personality of each character has to remain intact and they have to act from that personality or the story feels fake.  I can ask you to suspend some belief, but there has to be enough reality in the characters’ behaviors and actions for you to remain absorbed in the story or it is nothing more than mindless entertainment.  I enjoy mindless entertainment sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to a good book.

My characters face conflict and have to solve it.  Sometimes that means that they need to see themselves for who they truly are; they have to be honest with themselves or they’ll just keep having the same behavior and getting the same results.  Sometimes it means they need to do things they don’t like.  Sometimes it means they have to grow.  And sometimes it means that I need to bring in another character because they can’t get there by themselves.  Occasionally the conflict isn’t resolvable, but even then, it has to mimic what we know as real life or you feel like I took the easy way out as an author.

I never looked at my life like a story, but after writing a novel, that’s changed.  You’ve heard the saying that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but I discovered that sometimes fiction is no stranger to truth.  We all have the basic story of:

1.      We’re born and as we grow, we have questions and conflicts.

2.      We live our lives, often searching for answers and resolutions.

3.      We die having learned many things along the way.

Like every story, it’s the ‘why, what, and how’ that makes us unique, answers our questions, and solves our conflicts.

Next time you’re stuck with a question you can’t answer or a conflict you can’t resolve, imagine you’re a fictional character.  If you can write the character to a good resolution in a way that isn’t mindless entertainment, you can solve your real life problem with a similar approach.  Just like in a good book, most conflicts are resolvable…it just takes some creativity on the author’s part.

Until next time, may the choices you make and the actions you take today, create a healthier ‘you’ tomorrow!

🙂
Kathryn

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Happy January!

Happy New Year (a bit late) to everyone!

2011 is already shaping up to be a good year.  The first draft of my first novel is finally complete!  There is plenty of editing to do, but it will done and available for sale before summer.  Look for me to post an excerpt or two when the time gets closer.

For those of you who missed the announcement, most of my health and fitness writing can now be found at www.satisfactionandbeyond.com.  While it is health and fitness for everyone, there will be a special emphasis on those living with allergies and intolerances to food.  However some of the things that make food safe for those of us with food-allergies are some of the same things that make food healthy for all of us…so come by and check it out if you’re interested.  There will also be articles on exercise for those who have a “bum knee/shoulder/back/etc.”  The more banged up you are, the more important the right type of exercise is.

In the next few weeks the appearance of this site is going to change pretty drastically.  Not only will it be more appealing and have a cleaner look, but it should be easier to use too.

That’s it for the announcements for awhile.  From now on, I’ll be making posts that are more enjoyable to read, doing a few book reviews, etc.  See you with new content in a couple of weeks!

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