Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Reading, Writing, Singing

Nearly a month gone by since my last post; how time flies. But it's been so lovely here with our annual Carolinas SCBWI conference (online), Michael's cousins and aunt visiting, and preparing for High Mass for the Feast of the Holy Rosary (this year is the 450th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Lepanto). We sang Byrd for 3 Voices again (the link takes you to the Tallis Scholars because we have no recording, just these pictures). Afterwards we had another potluck. Fun to be with old friends and new. Lots of new people here, many fleeing from the Northeast and West Coast to get away from the restrictions that just keep on going in the name of Covid. The old adage of absolute power corrupts absolutely is now on full view in too many places. We must resist, especially when it's our children's future that's at stake. I feel an urgency to get my historical novel ready for submission...so yes, lots of writing and wrangling. 

I'm also spending a lot of time reading and I want to highlight some of the really good books, some of them so new they're not yet out in the world, so my thanks go to the publishers for providing advanced review copies (ARC or DRC for digital review copies) via NetGalley or Edelweiss. It's very tempting to request more than what you can chew though...






HOOKED: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers on Page One and Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton is a re-read. It's about openings, what we need to achieve. I received a wonderful conference critique on my historical with advice that resonated and knew I had to rework my opening. I was in the middle of the revision but went back to play again with my opening. And in the process learning ever more about my characters. How I love them! 

SECRETS OF STORY: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird is brilliant. I love the way it's structured because it is in asking the right questions that we can write our way to a better answer. I remember downloading his ultimate checklist many years ago but this book delves deeply into all these questions. I love what he says at the end. To throw out all this advice and just write. Internalize the art of the novel. I'm trying, I'm trying! Keeping irony in mind. I hope I get there because I have so many stories I want to tell but if each one takes me 5-10 years to develop, there aren't enough years left for me. I'm nearly sixty! 

ON IMMUNITY: an inoculation by Eula Biss is a collection of essays on its history coupled with her personal recollections after she gave birth to her son. The desire to protect is built into our psyche. She's honest about her anxieties and fears for her son and delves into many other areas regarding race, privilege, capitalism, private, public good, etc. related to vaccination. She ends with the metaphor, "Immunity is a shared space--a garden we tend together." True enough. No man is an island. She points out rightly that for a society to do what's best for the common good, you have to have trusts in its institutions. This book was written well before Covid and I wonder what she thinks now. You might be interested to note that the most vaccine hesitant are those with PhDs (especially those of us who've studied infection and immunology :)

CROOKED: Man-Made Disease Explained: The incredible story of metal, microbes, and medicine-hidden within our faces by Forrest Maready is one man's curiosity about crooked smiles and how it led him to investigate chronic health problems and tracing their history back to the 1800s. Fascinating book, well researched. He has several other books: THE MOTH IN THE IRON LUNG and UNVACCINATED that promise to be just as interesting.  

ON ANIMALS by Susan Orlean is another collection of essays about our relationship with animals, whether they be pets or grown for food or work. I especially enjoyed reading about her farm and the many animals they kept. The personal pieces were the best. Most others were more "reporty"--about mules, people who kept tigers or show dogs, etc. compiled from previously published essays in magazines. DRC.

INTERIOR SILENCE: My Encounters with Calm, Joy, and Compassion at 10 Monasteries Around the World by Sarah Sands is an honest book of the author's own struggle with busyness and her journey into these places where silence reigns. I enjoyed her reflections, the history of the monasteries, and that realization that we'd all do better to cultivate more silence in our lives. ARC.

I AM HAVA: a song's story of Love, Hope and Joy by Freda Lewkowicz and Siona Benjamin is a gorgeous picture book about the wonderful Jewish folksong Hava Nagila. For many years I danced in our International Folk Dance group and the Israeli folkdances were some of my favorite. When I saw this cover, I knew immediately that the artist had to be from India (we have a rich tradition of giving refuge to those who are persecuted and there's a thriving community of Bene Israel Jews in India). I requested an ARC and it is indeed a tale well told.

BLUE-SKINNED GODS by S.J. Sindu is such a tender story of a boy's awakening to the fact that he's not a god. His childhood is shaped by this lie. I loved the setting of the ashram in Tamil Nadu, the family relationships, his faith and innocence. My heart ached for the losses he endured. And even though the final part felt rushed (actually it matches the pace of his life in NYC) we trust that he will find his way in this world because he has sought and accepted truth. DRC.

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo is a beautiful book about chasing the dreams God places upon our hearts. I especially appreciated that the young heroine keeps her baby girl while working toward her dream of being a chef. I loved the complex family relationships. And that cover! Gorgeous!!!

What are the good books you're reading right now? I leave you with my peaceful backyard, the evening sky reflected in the marsh while we prayed the rosary. The heavens declare the glory of God! May He bless and protect you. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Ecuador Mission Trip

 

Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. ~ Hans Christian Anderson. I am so thankful Dagny had a chance to go on a mission trip to Ecuador with the Home of the Mother sisters. It ended up being a beautiful retreat. My girl came home on fire for the Lord! Full of JOY, like that of Sister Clare










Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Reading, Writing, Watching

In my previous post, I wondered if there was a schedule of childhood vaccinations that lessened the risks of adverse effects from vaccination and indeed there is. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan by Paul Thomas, M.D. and Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D. is a fantastic resource. It's easy to read and understand and gives new parents the tools to discern what is right for their child. Because let's face it, our children are more sick now than ever before. In 1983, the CDC recommended 11 shots until the age of 16 whereas in 2015, they recommended at last 50 shots starting at birth, with most of them given before the child turns two years old.  

"To what extent is overvaccination contributing to the rise in chronic diseases and other health problems among America's children? To what extent is overvaccination a trigger for autism? Have we taken an unquestionably good practice (childhood vaccination) and turned it into something that is actually causing harm?"

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is a comprehensive look at all the vaccines currently in use, their ingredients, as well as a schedule of vaccination that makes better sense for each child, rather than the current guidelines that follow a "one-size-fits-all." The authors recognize that "vaccines are preventative medicine. They do not cure an illness--they give a boost to an already healthy immune system so the body is less likely to succumb to illness in the future." Therefore it's "even more imperative that we have proof that the vaccines we are recommending are both necessary and safe." One thing is clear, the medical industry must start following its own mandate: First, do no harm. 

Alas, this has been sadly missing with the Covid vaccines. It's very rare for a child to die from Covid, yet our govt. agencies continue to push mask and vaccine mandates upon our children. The former VP of Pfizer, Dr. Michael Yeadon, says that a child is 50X more likely to die from the Covid vaccine than of Covid itself. Covid remains a problem for the elderly and those with comorbidities, so we should be focusing on keeping them safe, not making the rest of the people, including children take a vaccine that may or may not be useful. Here's a well-written piece on rethinking our strategy for managing Covid

It is the unreasonableness of the vaccine mandates that made me question our current protocols. It's up to the parents to do due diligence because we can no longer trust the CDC to evaluate what's best for our children. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan follows a chronological approach from before birth to adulthood, with emphasis on the child's well-being. I highly recommend it. I've already invested in my own copy and know I'll be lending it out. 

So, I'm a fan of Julia Cameron and her morning pages. They really work. I've been writing morning (sometimes they turn into afternoon or night pages, lol, but all writing is beneficial) off and on for several years now and it is amazing how much clarity one gets not just in writing but in life. Michael is nearing retirement so I got a copy of It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Middle Age and Beyond, and we're both enjoying going through it. The one thing that resonates deeply for us is that human beings are naturally creative and we seek expression. Michael put aside many of his hobbies to focus on being a husband and father who provides and is present to us. What I've appreciated most is that he cultivated so many of the home arts in his spare time, from gardening to cooking. The newest interest is in all things fermented. He started with kombucha and beer, not the easiest things to manage, and onto pickling, and now yogurt, kefir, cheese. He's having fun. And we're often consulting Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz or On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. It's so lovely sharing books and ideas. And what joy being a beginner again. We spend a lot of time together and I'm looking forward to when he can retire and spend more of his time doing ALL the things he loves. Perhaps he'll write a book too! As for me, I'm deep in revisions of my historical. This time it's do or die! I just received a wonderful conference critique with so many helpful suggestions that resonate, that I'm confident I can polish this until it shines.  

This past weekend we watched Show Me the Father in the movie theater. I've not been in quite some time and even surprised that it was available, wondering how they can even sustain being open. Our little art house theater has closed permanently :(  But the movie! Beautiful! It's about fatherhood and how important it is because it reflects the fatherhood of God. He's not distant, but near. We cry out Abba! Daddy. How many of us are lost because we do not have a father and don't know the Father's love? Even the best of fathers aren't perfect. The Kendrick brothers share not only their own story about their father, but also follow a couple more men and their struggles with an absent father and the blessing of other father figures in their lives. This movie touched me so deeply, to my core (couer?), I cried. I needed this very much, even as I bow my head to pray, Our Father...  Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. It's reminds me God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Go see Show Me the Father. Know that you are loved. Covid be damned.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Plague of Corruption

Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science by Judy Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively might be the most important book I've read this year. However, it has not restored my faith in science. On the contrary, it has diminished my trust in our health care system, particularly at the highest levels that issue forth guidelines. From the food pyramid (maligning fats) to the vaccine guidelines, it's clear that our leaders do not care about our health nor the health of our children anymore. They might have started out with good intentions but when new data came forth showing the harm of certain products (like masks, certain vaccines), the data have been shoved under the rug to protect the pockets of big companies who lobby many of our government institutions. It's an incestuous relationship that benefits only them. No wonder health care is a billion-dollar industry. Beware.

This book would make a good movie. It's got dedicated yet naïve scientists who uncover interesting details of new diseases, villains (you'd think these are the bugs themselves, but sadly, it's other scientists or govt. regulatory bodies), and ethical questions at its core. I devoured this book because I enjoy medical mysteries. However, I realize that not everybody is interested in esoteric details or gossip between scientists. So I recommend reading the Foreword and Introduction that's available with the "Look Inside" Feature. It will shed a great deal of light on the current situation with Covid and why we need to fight mandates that have no scientific basis.  

I studied microbiology and biochemistry in the 1980s and 1990s and read many of the original papers regarding the new field of retroviruses, pioneered by Dr. Mikovitz's boss, Dr. Frank Ruscetti (and others). The central dogma of information flow for many years was DNA-->mRNA-->protein. Retroviruses have RNA as their genetic material (hence the "retro" part) and they have an enzyme, Reverse Transcriptase (RT) that transcribes the RNA into DNA. Why, you may ask? Probably because RNA is unstable. With a stable DNA template, the virus can hijack cellular machinery to make multiple copies of the RNA and viral proteins and packaging them into new infectious particles. However, RT is prone to making mistakes so this allows for these viruses to mutate more quickly and respond to environmental stresses to maximize survival. Remember, a successful virus is one that can hang out in a population. If it kills too quickly, it cannot spread far and wide. In fact, some of the most successful viruses have actually integrated into our own cells. Some of them are quiet. Others are activated and can cause diseases. Many autoimmune diseases and cancers have a viral component and it's fascinating to see how our genes interact with the environment.

So what is all this corruption about? Dr. Mikovitz found a link between Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and XMRV (a mouse retrovirus). How in the world does a mouse virus get into humans? Via vaccines. 

That's because to make a vaccine, you have to grow the viruses in cell-lines. Whether or not we used a killed-virus vaccine or one that's attenuated to be less infectious (by passing through several generations in cell lines) you have to realize that what goes into the arm is not a pure concoction but rather a mixture containing other animal viruses, heavy metals, and other nasty things that can cause disease. And the more you vaccinate, the more likely you might reach a tipping point that can awaken a sleeping monster.  

We're used to thinking about vaccines as magic bullets. But for certain sub-populations, these bullets end up harming the person and usually these are children. We do not monitor their immune responses; we just take them in for shot after shot thinking we're protecting them from deadly diseases. But consider what an immature immune system is being presented with: multiple pathogens that challenge the immune system and some of these children's immune systems get so thoroughly out of balance, they end up with auto-immune diseases. There's also a link to mitochondrial dysfunction (mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell) with ME/CFS and autism.    

During the early days of HIV/AIDS we asked so many questions. Some were answered, some not, but it was an exciting time. It is Dr. Mikovitz's work that commuted AIDS from a death sentence to one that's managed with multi-drug therapy. However, in my naivete, it did not occur to me that some things would be kept from being published. I always believed in the free exchange of ideas--that's why we pursue science--so I feel the same way Dr. Mikovitz feels, the outrage of not examining more closely what we know when new information comes to light. We have to shift our practices if we discover that we are actually harming some people. But there's a lot at stake--pride and money--and even the best of us can be corrupted. And Dr. Mikovitz uncovers a great deal of it. And guess, who's mixed up in all this? Dr. Fauxi. 

What we're seeing today, the suppression of data regarding Covid, is absolutely criminal. Scientists in India have been using the anti-parasitic drugs, hydroxychloroquinine or  Ivermectin, as a prophylactic, but also as a treatment for patients with Covid in combination with Zinc and Azithromycin. But because this protocol is still not approved by the FDA, it opened the door to using experimental vaccines on an emergency basis. From the beginning, it was touted as the thing that's going to save humanity from what is basically a disease that has a similar mortality rate as influenza. Yes, that was the first lie--that Covid is 10x deadlier than the flu. The next lie was that asymptomatic people can infect others. And on and on... diabolical. And now with the FDA giving its approval to the Pfizer mRNA gene-therapy, there will be more mandates, even though there were no proper controls. All of this is very disturbing. It's bad science; it's bad medicine. And our freedom to live according to our conscience is being eroded. Job or jab? And unfortunately, those who speak out against the lies are shut down. There is no debate, no examination of the data. But thank God for the people who are willing to put their lives and careers on the line, who are brave and I am joining them in this fight. 

I've had to rethink everything I know about infection and immunology in light of retroviruses and quiescent ones in our own DNA, how they could get activated. I too have observed an explosion of people with chronic ailments and allergies (I'm one of them with chronic migraines). Although I have always believed that vaccinations have saved lives (and even participated in a Phase III trial for Hepatitis B vaccine) I'm not sure whether people have been able to separate the effects of vaccines vs. those of good sanitation and hygiene. But increasingly, I am concerned that we might be doing more harm by having so many vaccinations. With my own children, I followed the regular protocol, declining the ones I thought weren't necessary because I kept my children at home until they were old enough for school. Thank God they didn't face any adverse reactions but I truly feel terrible for the parents whose children were harmed. I wonder if there's a schedule of vaccinations that minimizes damage.

We are made beautifully with a well-designed immune system that works to defend our bodies from various pathogens. The skin is the largest organ in the body and it's amazing! So are our T-cells and B-cells and clotting mechanisms. But they can go haywire as well and the current crop of so-called Covid vaccines may do just that. Never before have we been successful at making an effective vaccine for coronaviruses because they cause the body to hyper-react when challenged with the pathogen (it's called antibody-dependent enhancement or ADE). I don't know whether natural infection also causes it (in the case of dengue fever, there's ADE) but we'll see what happens with Covid this winter. The advantage of natural infection is that you get both T-cell and B-cell immunity that's long-lasting.  

I find Plague of Corruption credible. I believe the science and the documents Dr. Mikovitz has shared. She has great passion and I respect people who are willing to suffer for the truth. May we all be so courageous. 

I just finished Henry Miller on Writing and what a joy to read his "voyage of discovery" even as I struggle to write what matters deeply to me. I was introduced to him via Anais Nin many years ago and they both played a part in my own awakening. So it was especially interesting to read his thoughts on censorship. It's almost prophetic. He writes: "...there exists one morality for peace times and another for war. In times of war everything is permitted, everything condoned. That is to say, everything abominable and infamous committed by the winning side... In cold blood, years before any outbreak, they prepare to make others do their bidding; mentally they embrace every conceivable form of horror and destruction, and they set about their business calmly, deliberately, ruthlessly, waiting only for the opportune moment to put their plans into execution." This gave me chills as I thought about the people involved in Event201 leading up to AD 2020. 

Recently my publisher for Little Thief! Chota Chor! sent me book plates to sign and return so I was thinking about what's underneath the story and it's this: Question everything! Question your assumptions. And as we learn new things, revise your thinking. Truly, it's a re-visioning. And here I am envisioning the future, with the King and Queen of Heaven reigning! And not a mosquito in sight :)

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Garden Tales

Everything is growing, growing and then gone. Squirrels are taking bites of the tomatoes, the grasshoppers stripping the okra leaves, so I'm picking veggies before they're ripe and using some of them in gazpacho. Who knew that unripe watermelon makes a lovely base. Here's Michael harvesting the hops. He uses them in his brewing and they're what make beer bitter but they smell so lemony fresh, not at all like their taste. And we've started growing our own seabeans from seeds. The ones we planted in the marsh didn't sprout. Maybe they got washed away in the tide or it wasn't salty enough, but all they need is some seawater, which we get from the beach. Life is good.



I found this little wood and wire house in a Mexican grocery store. How I wish I had something like this to play with when I was a little girl! Tiny baskets and jugs and a teensy mortar and pestle too, all under the watchful eye of our Lady of Guadalupe and His Divine Mercy. Oh, I miss the sweet times playing with my kids when they were small. Now Max has his own household and Dagny's going away to Ave Maria. She gave away almost all her toys when she was 12; I kept a couple of little pots and pans and utensils that I still use. Why yes! Sometimes you need the teeniest whisk :) 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Trip to Washington D.C.

It's unusual for me to be out and about and far from home, given I'm a homebody. But what a delight for me to visit Max in his new home in DC and see some of the sights. I was originally planning to go in the fall, when it's not crowded with tourists but Dagny wanted to visit before she started school at Ave Maria, so we planned a short trip right after her return from Ecuador. And thanks be to God, she made it home in time. We stayed in Chinatown and it was a quick bus-ride to Max's place. And what a beautiful home, filled with good books, gorgeous art, and delicious food. We got off the bus and we simply let our noses guide us to the right home. Lamb vindaloo was simmering on the stove. Another friend who was visiting prepared a mint chutney. Max, upon his return home from work, made mango lassi. I contributed the cardamom. Max is so blessed to be right in the center of one of the best communities of faithful Catholics and it was a great joy for me to spend some time with them, getting to know them. It reminded me of the poem by Hillaire Belloc:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!





There was sight-seeing along the National Mall. Really enjoyed visiting the National Gallery of Art. Pictures of paintings don't do justice but the still-lifes and sculptures were decent; I could practically smell the magnolia. The cemetery behind Max's home was peaceful and the beautiful church just a block away from our hotel, St. Mary Mother of God, became my home away from home where we could hear daily Latin Mass.






But it's the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception that left me overwhelmed with gratitude and holy tears. I can die happy after partaking of such immense beauty. I am so happy Max lives close by. When he interned the first year in DC, he lived right across the Basilica in the dormitory pictured below. Truly, the Catholic Church is universal. What a pity that the Solemn Pontifical Mass scheduled there for the Feast of the Assumption was cancelled by Ap. Wilton Gregory. It is unbelievably cruel. Only God can save us from our bad bishops.    











I have one last shrine to share: Pope St. John Paul II. The mosaics are all so luminous because he gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. It's still a work in progress. These days, we need Light! I read a beautiful reflection on this trip, the essence being that we need the Good for our bodies, Truth for our minds, and Beauty for our souls.







Whew! That's all folks. Now it's time for me to practice music for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Our pastor said that in the spirit of Custodes Tradionis we shall celebrate with a Solemn High Mass followed by a potluck! Deo gratias!