Thursday, January 29, 2015


I didn't write a blog this morning, but I'm inviting readers to read my column on Meridian. I tried something new, using four new novels I particularly enjoyed reading, to stress the importance of creating characters with the faults and foibles that make characters feel like real people. In each of the four books I reviewed, the flawed main character goes through a growth process, making him or her a better, stronger person. I would love having you add comments on this topic.  So here's the deal:  Everyone who comments by midnight Feb. 1, 2015, on the V-formation blog, on Notes from Jennie, on my Meridian column, or on Facebook will get their name in a drawing for my copy of one of these four books: Deadly Secrets by Frank Richardson, Wedding Cake by Josi Killpack, Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore, or Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Perspective

After six years as a newspaper editor I have a strong commitment to freedom of the press.  Still recent events have me thinking not only about the journalism instruction I received that became a part of me and the values important to me, but of some of the cliché sayings my parents used to teach me on how to make right choices.  Many of those old clichés have direct bearing on some of today's problems.

First off I'm as horrified as anyone by the needless massacre of the "Charlie" publication staff in Paris.  Murder is pretty hard to justify.  Still deliberately antagonizing fanatics as that staff did with their caricatures of Mohammad reminds me of a saying of my parents:  "Just because you can, doesn't make it right." Add to that "If you stick your head in a bee's nest, you'll get stung" and "If you tease the cat, you'll get scratched."
Along with a firm commitment to freedom of speech, I also believe in respecting other's religious views. Almost everyone knows the Muslim world opposes drawings, photos, or any kind of artistic depiction of their prophet. To draw caricatures of him is to insult and offend those of his faith.  Isn't this a lot like "poking a sleeping dog?" Or as my dad would say, "Be careful poking sticks at someone else's sacred cows." 

I don't like it when someone ridicules my religious beliefs and in a world where there's great emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of differences, I often find those yelling the loudest are the biggest bigots and show the greatest intolerance. I'll stand up for my beliefs and allow you the same privilege, but I don't condone either of us restricting or insulting the other for our beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean it's all right to yell "fire" in a crowded building.  Neither does it mean you can trample on the religious beliefs of others or toss aside good sense.  In my view the magazine staff was wrong to publish a caricature they knew was offensive to adherents of Islam and to continue to "throw gasoline on the flames," by continuing to do so, but just as"two wrongs don't make a right" there is nothing right about the response of radical Islamists to this offense.  I suspect most Muslims are like me, the offensive drawings would cause personal hurt, maybe even anger, but they wouldn't make it worse by perpetrating a greater wrong. They would simply walk away and pity the offender for his ignorance. 

There are times journalists must publish something hurtful in their pursuit of truth and justice.  In this case poking fun of a religious leader served no purpose other than to insult.  The Islamic fanatics who murdered those who offended them accomplished nothing other than to enrich "Charlie's" coffers by creating a greater demand for the publication and costing further lives.  My mother would say "Some people don't have the good sense God gave a goose."

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I suspect the most common wish for most people as a new year rolls around is to lose weight. Losing weight generally means having better health, more energy, looking more attractive, and it gives our self esteem a positive boost. With each new year people vow to attend a gym regularly, take up an active sport, and eat less.  These fine resolutions seldom survive through the end of January.

 A year ago I lost 54 pounds. I don't recommend losing weight the way I did however.  Along with losing pounds I lost my pancreas and gall bladder and became a severe diabetic. A serious illness is not the best way to lose weight. Now it's a matter of working to continue to have new years to worry about.  For all of you, who like me, are striving to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, here are a few suggestions.

Start when you first wake up in the morning.  Sit on the edge of your bed and swing your feet out straight, then down, and up again for twenty swings. (Easy huh?)

Plan ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise each day at a set time like right after you crawl out of the bathroom first thing after getting out of bed. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?)This can be riding a stationary bike, walking up and down stairs, riding a bike, running, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.

Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, tackle a major house cleaning project each day such as vacuuming, washing windows, or shopping (online doesn't count). Those people, like writers, who spend long hours sitting at the computer should plan on getting out of the chair and walking around the house or yard at least five minutes every hour.

Play something that involves movement such as taking the kids sledding, tramping around the zoo, play some sport, swim. Find an activity you enjoy and your chances of keeping it up improve.

Include two kinds of activities in your lifestyle.  Remember exercises that involve repetitive use of the long muscles of arms or legs strengthen the cardio vascular system while weight lifting exercise tightens and builds muscles.  (Working out with those small weights two or three times a week miraculously reduces belly fat.)

The one exercise we need to do less of is the one that bends the elbow of the arm attached to our forks.  Seriously people, chips, soda, processed foods, and second helpings have to go. As a diabetic I have to count every carb that goes into my mouth.  Reading labels and avoiding or reducing the carbs (found in starchy and sweet foods) is not easy, but it can be done.  An occasional treat is okay as long as occasional means once a week or once a month, NOT once a day.

Joining a gym or a weight reduction club or group is helpful for many people, but too expensive for others.  They're worth the price for those with a serious weight problem, but not absolutely necessary for the rest of us. Some people do better and stick to their plan better if boosted by a group, but for those with strong self-motivation or limited time you can lose that weight or keep off weight you've worked to lose by small changes in your lifestyle and a determined mind set.

It's easy to put off keeping those pounds in check until a better time.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way there isn't a better time.  It has to be now.  Besides I gave away my fat clothes and have had a difficult time finding a new wardrobe.  I don't want to go through buying new fat clothes.