Monday, April 29, 2013

"Zeke" Bread

Have you ever heard of Ezekiel bread? I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't, because I hadn't until a few months ago when one of my mom's friends told her she needed to try some. My mom bought some from the grocery store and we gave it a try. My mom liked it and wanted to try her hand at making it from scratch since she loves to bake bread. She found a recipe for it on the internet and started experimenting. She made it a few times and thought it was good, but not great, so she tweaked the recipe until she got it just right.

You might be wondering what this bread is and where it gets its unusual name. In the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament the Lord tells Ezekiel, "Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches [spelt], and put them in one vessel and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shall lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof." Ezekiel 4:9 This was a foreshadowing of the siege and famine that would happen in Jerusalem. Here's a little more info about the origins of Ezekiel bread from the Bible:

The Lord told Ezekiel to do certain things that symbolized conditions that would prevail when Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem.

“In times of scarcity, it is customary in all countries to mix several kinds of coarser grain with the finer, to make it last longer. This mashlin, which the prophet is commended to take, of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and fitches, was intended to show how scarce the necessaries of life should be during the siege.

"… The whole of the above grain, being ground, was to be formed into one mass, out of which he was to make three hundred and ninety loaves; one loaf for each day; and this loaf was to be of twenty shekels in weight. All this shows that so reduced should provisions be during the siege, that they should be obliged to eat the meanest sort of aliment. (Clarke, Adam. The Holy Bible… with a commentary and Critical Notes.)

I shortened the name to "Zeke bread" since giving nicknames to people/things is just something I do. Ever since I was a little girl I've altered the names of people/things, oftentimes by using the first syllable of the word or by dropping a syllable off the end or something like that. Anyway, this is where the name "Zeke" comes from.

I love, love, LOVE toast! It's one of two or three different breakfasts that I alternate between. Things just don't get any better than hot, buttered toast! Ezekiel bread makes THE BEST toast. I actually don't think I've ever eaten Ezekiel bread as bread… I always have it toasted. This bread is very hearty and has a semi-coarse texture with a wonderful flavor. You can see from the pictures that the holes in the bread are rather large, so the butter really sinks into the nooks and crannies of the bread as it melts. I wish I could describe it better because everyone should know how delicious this toast is!

Here are pictures of the Ezekiel bread as bread, and then as toast
This bread is very nutritious, so I don't feel at all guilty about eating it! The bread has seeds and grains in it, which makes a complete protein. Zeke bread also does wonders for the bowels, so you can't eat it with reckless abandon. If you do you'll be sorry! 

"Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed"

Last week my mom and I finished reading a wonderful book called Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed  by Carmen Blandin Tarleton. Here is the synopsis on the back cover of the book:

On June 10, 2007, Carmen Blandin Tarleton's estranged husband broke into her rural Vermont home, and beat her with a baseball bat and doused her with industrial-strength lye. Doctors called it "THE MOST HORRIFIC INJURY A HUMAN BEING COULD SUFFER."

Tarleton spent the next three and a half months in a medically induced coma, and when she awoke, it was to an unimaginable reality: she was blind and permanently disfigured, with burns covering more than 80% of her body. Her recovery would include months of painful rehab, dozens of surgeries and total dependence on family, friends and strangers for physical and financial care.

With so much taken away, no one could have anticipated what Tarleton would gain from her experience: an awakening. A purpose. Joy. By sharing her struggles and ultimate victory over catastrophic loss, Tarleton proves this life is a choice––and, in the process, offers a rare glimpse into the best and worst corners of the human heart.
I first heard about this book a few months ago while watching The Doctors one morning on TV. Dr. Travis was interviewing Carmen just weeks after her receiving a face transplant. The  interview was conducted over the phone, so you couldn't see Carmen's new face, but my interest was piqued, nonetheless. People often tell me how inspiring I am, which is very humbling since I don't feel worthy of such high praise. I don't feel like I'm doing anything that grand. Now someone like Carmen, on the other hand, she's the true inspiration! Carmen is going to be on The Doctors again this Wednesday, May 1. This is her third interview on The Doctors, but her first interview debuting her new face. I'm really looking forward to watching!

I love reading true stories and accounts of real people who have been through tremendous trials, but have still managed to face life with joy and a positive attitude. That's the example I'm trying to follow. This book is very uplifting and one that I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with their own challenges and needs a little inspiration.

Below is a picture of Carmen before her face transplant, and a picture of her being interviewed by Dr. Travis Stork on The Doctors.
Click here to read my follow-up on Carmen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing

Time's a funny thing… it can go so slowly and so quickly at the same time. On one hand it's hard to believe that it's already been over a week since the Boston Marathon bombing, but on the other hand so much as happened that it seems like much longer. I decided to make this post to document just what happened so that I can remember since this is being called the biggest terror attack since 9/11.

Last Monday I was working on my computer when "breaking news" interrupted normal TV just after 2 PM announcing that there had been two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At this point it wasn't clear what had caused the explosions. Was it an accident or an intentional act of violence? About an hour later reports confirmed that the explosions were bombs.

Modern technology allows for remarkable things to be captured on film these days. It was interesting to watch the footage of the explosions to see things as they really happened and not have to try to imagine how bad things really were. It would've been so frightening to be there… one minute you're enjoying the marathon as a runner or spectator, and the next minute you're surrounded by utter chaos.

Here are some pictures of the explosions as they happened:
Here are pictures of the pandemonium that ensued after the explosions: I'm glad that help wasn't too far away and that police/ambulances were able to respond so quickly since the people closest the bombs were hurt very badly.
Viewer discretion is advised since some of these next pictures are quite graphic. Even though they are gruesome I think it's important to see them to get a sense of what happened to the victims since this is now part of our country's history. I love how these pictures shows people serving others. They didn't think twice, they just saw a need and did what they could to aid/comfort others… even perfect strangers.
I think tragedies like this really put life into perspective and help you realize what's truly important. I love how it renews your sense of patriotism. It's easy to get wrapped up in superficial things, so as awful as catastrophes like this are, I think they help you count your blessings and appreciate what you have.
The bombs (which were pressure cookers filled with metal shrapnel) were hidden inside backpacks and strategically placed near the marathon finish line. Just knowing that the pressure cookers were filled with BBs and ball bearings just shows that they were intended to cause as much harm as possible. Three people were killed in the bombing and more than 170 people were injured (many of the victims lost limbs).

Here are pictures of the victims; eight-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and 23-year-old Lü Lingzi:
I think the two biggest questions on everyone's mind the night of the bombing were WHO was responsible and WHAT was their motivation behind the vicious attack. The police started investigating things right away. They even enlisted the help of the public and asked anyone who had pictures/videos to turn them in so that the police could scrutinize them to see if they held any the answers as to who was responsible for the attack. "Crowdsourcing" is the practice of enlisting the public's help to obtain needed information. (This is a new term I've learned in the past week.)

Modern technology is truly amazing. The police analyzed thousands of pictures/videos, and in just a day or two they zeroed in on these suspicious looking young men. After the pictures were televised the police tip lines were flooded with calls from people who thought they knew who the young men were.

The suspects were identified as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two brothers from Chechnya, and a major manhunt was on to find them. The nearby towns of  Watertown and Cambridge (two suburbs of Boston) were put on "lockdown" since the suspects at large were armed and dangerous. Schools were canceled, businesses were closed, public transportation was shut down and people were told to lock their doors and to only open for the police.
On Thursday evening I heard more breaking news that there had been a shooting at MIT and 26-year-old police officer Sean Collier had been shot several times and killed. When I woke up on Friday morning my mom told me that the brothers had carjacked someone after the MIT shooting and were then involved in a firefight with police. The older brother was killed, but the younger brother got away, so the manhunt continued.

I found last week's events strangely exciting in a macabre way. (Macabre is a word that I learned a few years ago from a book. I don't think I've ever used it before, but it fits this situation.) My mom and I had somewhere to be several hours during the day last Friday, so I reluctantly peeled myself away from the TV. As much as I wanted Dzhokhar caught, I didn't want to miss out on any of the action and hoped I  would be near a TV if anything exciting happened. I was tuned in to the TV all afternoon/evening and was very excited when the news broke that Dzhokhar had been captured by the police.

(After the residents in Watertown were told that they were no longer on "lockdown" a man went out to his backyard to check on his prized boat. When he peeled back the tarp he found Dzhokhar hiding inside. He called the police and when they got there  they used flash grenades to coax Dzhokhar out of the boat. They were successful and were able to take Dzhokhar alive. He had some serious injuries, but will survive.)

People were in disbelief when they found out that Dzhokhar was involved in the bombing. They interviewed lots of his former classmates and they all said what a nice guy he was. It's not like he was a socially inept loner like so many who do things like this are. When the brothers' family members found out that they were allegedly responsible for the attack they said that it couldn't be true because they weren't capable of doing something like this. They said the boys must've been framed. I can understand why they were in disbelief because I wouldn't want to believe that one of my family members could do something like that, either. I think they'll eventually have to resign themselves to the fact that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan are the ones responsible for the bombing.

There still aren't any conclusive answers as to what the brothers' motive was, but on the news this morning they reported that Dzhokhar confessed to the bombings and said that he and his brother were "protecting Islam." Apparently the brothers are Muslim and the older brother is an extremist with radical ideas. My mom and I have a theory that the older brother was the mastermind behind the attack and he convinced his younger brother to go along with it. (Of course this is just our speculation.)

When the manhunt was on I didn't think there was much of a chance that either suspect would be taken alive, although I hoped there would be. I know that both brothers will ultimately be punished by God in the next life, but there's something slightly dissatisfying when criminals aren't brought to justice. I'm glad that Dzhokhar is still alive and it will definitely be interesting to see what else comes to light in the next few days/weeks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Les Misérables" (the book)

After I saw Les Misérables in the theater last December it piqued my interest in the book. I've never considered reading it before since I know it's an extremely long book, but after seeing the movie I wanted to know exactly what happens in the book, not just what is portrayed in the play/movie.

I noticed that iTunes was selling the unabridged audiobook of Les Misérables for $5.95 so I decided to buy since it was only a few dollars. That's really inexpensive for an audiobook (especially one as long as Les Mis) and I knew if I didn't like it I wouldn't feel guilty for wasting money.

As I said, I opted for the unabridged version of the book; all 58 hours of it! (That's 1463 pages.) I started listening to Les Misérables in mid-January and I finally finished it Tuesday night. I would've/could've finished the book a lot sooner, but I don't have near as much time for leisure reading these days since I have lots of other projects and activities taking up my time. (One of these things is teaching Sunday school. Even though I only teach once a week, I devote a lot of time trying to do the best job I can for the kids in my class.)

I decided to read the synopsis and analysis for each section of Les Misérables on the Spark Notes website in order to get the most out of the book as I could. The things I read on Spark Notes were tremendously helpful for someone like me who isn't very good at connecting the dots and looking for deeper meanings. There was so much in the book that I failed to pick up on that became a lot more clear after reading the Spark Notes. The vague/complex parts of the plot made a lot more sense, and I also learned about the intricate literary devices that Victor Hugo used.

My mom, sister and I watched the movie this past Monday and I picked up on lots of things that I completely missed the first time around, or didn't fully understand. I also realized just how much of the story is left out of the play/movie. It's understandable, though, since this book is so long and spans several decades. That being said, I think the play and the movie both do a really good job telling the most important parts of the story in a way that makes sense.

I read the entire book, boring parts and all, which is pretty impressive, if you ask me. I'm glad I read it because it's such a wonderful story of redemption and love. I'm glad to be finished with Les Mis after working on it for three months, and I'm looking forward to starting something new... a quick, lighthearted read this time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts on Porn

Several months ago I read an interesting article on a blog called Beauty Redefined called Porn and Pop Culture: A Deadly Combination. It was very well-written and really thought-provoking and I've thought of it many, many times since reading it. There was so much food for thought, so I thought I would paraphrase the article and share some of the parts that I found most fascinating, plus my thoughts about each part. (In order to distinguish between the excerpts from the article and my own personal thoughts, I'm putting all of the direct quotes from the article in purple text.)

The article starts out by redefining what pornography is. Pornography Redefined: The average person hears the word “pornography” and imagines a computer, a vision of the World Wide Web, or a magazine hidden under a mattress. But scholars define pornography as “a state of undress and a mode of representation that invites the sexualized gaze of the viewer.” Webster’s Dictionary describes it as “the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement." Working from these definitions, we find these dangerous messages in many other places than just behind "closed doors."

[I love this redefinition of what pornography is. Porn comes in so many forms and is so much more than dirty magazines and X-rated websites. Thinking of pornography in the context of the redefined definition has really opened my eyes  I've realized that pornography is all around us, and some pornographic images are becoming so "normal" that sometimes we don't even realize that what we're seeing is actually pornographic when you really stop and think about it. Some images might not be as graphic as others, but they still have damaging effects.]

The line between pop culture and pornography has blurred in just the last 10 years. The last decade of our lives has been called “the rise of raunch,” “porno-chic society” and “striptease culture,” which marks the way media makers incorporate sex into their messages while totally denying they are pornographic. 

[ SO true! Things in the media, for example, have really declined in the past decade and I'm constantly amazed at the things that are allowed on television these days that wouldn't have been allowed several years ago. The limit is constantly being pushed further and further as people try to top whoever or whatever is currently raising peoples' eyebrows.]

When we understand that pornography includes ALL of the depictions (in images or words) that are meant to invite a sexualized interpretation and incite sexual feelings, then we see that otherwise “mainstream” media choices are actually working as gateway drugs to more secret, addictive forms of pornography. These constant pornographic images and messages are causing boys, girls, men and women to become desensitized to images and messages that people would have RUN from just a few years ago. 

[I hadn't thought of things in this way before. (Number one, that the current images portrayed by the media are oftentimes pornographic when you keep the redefined definition of pornography in mind. And number two, that these sorts of images are actually like "gateway drugs" since they lead to more addictive forms of pornography.) As far as becoming desensitized, I know that I've personally become desensitized as I've gotten older. It's unfortunate, but understandable since pornographic images are being presented as "normal and natural," as the article said.

In 2009, a neurosurgeon revealed alarming evidence that pornography triggers changes in brain chemistry and functioning like those caused by cocaine and meth. These changes result in an “enslaving addiction” that damages the brain, reducing the size of the brain essential for self-control and prudent judgment. Other psychiatrists around the world echo these findings claiming that today’s ever-present pornography “is a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before.

[These facts and statistics are really sobering. I bet a lot of people's addictions start rather innocently as they dabble in pornography, but then before they know it they are caught in a powerful addiction that they can't break free of.]

Studies claim men and women who viewed just six hours of pornography (one hour each week for six weeks) reported significantly reduced satisfaction with their present relationship, both with their partner’s sexuality and appearance.  Participants also reported being faithful to their partner was less important by study’s end and their view of sex without emotional involvement rose in favor.  [Another eye-opening statistic, in my opinion.]

Studies demonstrate repeated exposure to sexualized female bodies encourages women to view and value themselves from an outsider’s gaze, positively endorse sexually objectifying images in the future, and experience body hatred.

[I'm sure there's a huge correlation between pornography and women who experience body hatred and/or other self-esteem issues. There's a lot of pressure on imagine women to look a certain way and I'm sure it doesn't help their issues if they know their husband is looking at scantily clad women.]

RUN from Normalized Pornography! Sexual images and dialogue are now a normal part of media all hours of the day. You now know this research is very clear that pornography changes the way men and women view each other, it gets in the way of us forming loving and healthy relationships with family and friends, it skews our perceptions of female bodies, our sense of self-worth, and leads to unhealthy choices. Do not just walk away from it… RUN FROM IT!

We give power to media messages and images when we continue to view and read them. Recognize the ways pornographic images and content show up in regular, “mainstream” media. Recognizing and rejecting those normalized pornographic depictions can prevent us from falling into the trap of more blatant pornographic content later. 

[I like how the article pointed out that pornography isn't just limited to pictures, but things that are written can also be pornographic. I can't help but think of the Fifty Shades book series that's all the rage right now. I haven't read these books but I think they would definitely be classified as porn. When these books were first released I saw a display of them at Target and my sister and I stopped and flipped through one of them. "Oh my!" is all I have to say! I don't want to sound judgmental for anyone who has read these books, but they definitely aren't my cup of tea!]
I think Hardees/Carl's Jr commercials are the perfect example of "mainstream pornography" and a company that uses "sex to sell." I think their TV commercials are beyond inappropriate. If the burgers are that great then let the taste speak for itself! I don't eat out very often at all (and I think I've only eaten at Hardees once or twice in my life) but racy commercials like this don't make me want to run to Hardees for a meal! Here are two still images from two different Hardees commercials that in my opinion perfectly illustrate what mainstream porn is (a state of undress that invites the sexualized gaze of the viewer intended to cause sexual excitement").
I'm definitely not trying to sound judgmental or like I'm looking down my nose at others who think differently about this than I do. I just found this article interesting and it really opened my eyes to the "mainstream pornography" that's all around me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Computers: Can't Live with 'em, Can't Live without 'em!

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. Oh, how I love it when it's working well because I love the independence it brings me, but oh, how I hate it when it isn't running properly! My computer started malfunctioning last fall. It had been working just fine, and then all of a sudden it wasn't working quite right. Little things kept going wrong and changing without any rhyme or reason and I didn't know what to do to fix the problems. My voice dictation software wasn't working well and my programs were constantly crashing which meant I would either have to reopen them or restart my computer altogether. This made working on my computer extremely frustrating! (It's a good thing I'm paralyzed or I would've thrown it out the window months ago!)

My laptop was only three years old, so although I knew something was wrong, I really didn't think it needed to be replaced. My computer kept giving me a "your computer is low on memory" error, so I consulted a computer-savvy friend from church to see if he could put some more RAM in my laptop. He said that my computer was already maxed out on the amount of RAM it can hold, so I decided I would just have to bite the bullet and get a new computer. My savvy friend also has connections with Dell, so he offered to custom build me a new computer. It took him a few months to acquire a computer with all of the specifications I wanted/needed, but he finally found one last month. I was so grateful for his help since I know only about enough to be dangerous when it comes to computers! He managed to get me a KILLER deal, too, and saved me about $600!

My computer friend brought my new laptop over last Wednesday and got it all set up for me. I love it and am so grateful to be operating at full speed again after limping along with my old computer for the past six months. It's nice to know that I have a completely current laptop again. I know it will last all of five minutes before there's something bigger and better and more up-to-date out there, but I'm good for the moment. I'm hoping this laptop will serve me well for at least four years, but I suppose only time will tell since technology changes and evolves by leaps and bounds in no time at all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easter 2013

I know this recap is way overdue since Easter was over a week ago, but I just haven't seemed to have enough time for all of the things that I want/need to do. I won't complain, though, because I'd rather be a little too busy than be bored!

Easter was a lovely day. We went to church and heard some wonderful messages about the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(Above: beautiful flowers from my friend, Kellie. I love tulips because they just say "Easter" to me!) I decided to debut my new seafoam cardigan that I bought last December. Green is my favorite color and seafoam is my favorite shade of green, so when I saw saw this cardigan at New York & Company I knew I just had to have it! My mom also debuted a new sweater and we looked like quite the spring pair in our seafoam and aqua cardigans.
Getting "photo-bombed" by the Easter Bunny!
The food we had for dinner was simple, but yummy. We had ham, "funeral" potatoes, peas, pistachio salad, rolls, veggies and even a pickle bar! I'm not sure why, but my mom wanted to have a variety of pickles.  We had kosher dill pickles, bread-and-butter pickles and beet pickles. Mom also wanted to have sweet gherkins, one of her favorite kinds of pickle, but she couldn't find any at the store. I was surprised that the beet pickles went over so well with so many of our guests. I've never had pickled beets before, so I decided to try one. It wasn't the worst thing to ever pass my lips, but I don't think I'll be eating them again anytime soon. Just not my cup of tea!
We had two desserts: a lemon cream cheese filled pineapple upside down cake (a new recipe that my mom wanted to try) and chocolate peanut butter chess pie (a wonderfully rich pie that we had for the first time last Thanksgiving). I really liked it, so I suggested that we have it again for Easter. The pineapple upside down cake was also good, but I prefer chocolatey desserts. (It turned out beautifully, though, and was definitely "picture-perfect!"
We invited some friends and family over for dinner. There were 12 of us total and we had a great time visiting while we ate. Two of our dinner guests were Paul, a longtime friend of the family, and Edward, a new friend. My younger sister Laura and her family also came, but I didn't get any pictures of the entire family, so these first two pictures will have to represent that they were present!
Speaking of "new" friends, I was pleased that my friend Sienna and her family could join us for dinner. We met last November and really hit it off and have since become "fast friends." We've had a lot of fun getting to know each other, and the more I find out about her, the more I like her. I hope she feels the same way about me! ;)
Here are a few more pictures of Sienna's family that her husband Ben took in the backyard after dinner. They have the cutest little guy named Gabriel!
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