The Appalachian: A Novel

The Appalachian: A Novel

It is safe to say that I have been an avid non-reader most my life. According to my mother I loved to read when I was young. That all changed while I was in Elementary, Middle, and High School. I have a feeling it was the forced reading of books that I had no interest in and at a pace that I could not keep up with. The irony is that the more you read the better you get and this absence of reading really hit me hard in that area. This only really became an issue in college, somehow I was able to skirt through high school with cliff notes and class notes.

Things are different now that I am almost 34. Though much busier that I was back then I have begun to read for fun again. Admittedly not much; but as time allows. I really have my Beloved to thank for that. Without her encouragement I would have not even tried. It amazes me how God works things out like that. There are so many things that I would have not experienced without her encouragement. I can easily see how I would be half the person I am today without her in my life.

I’ve read a few books since my reading reboot (Walden by Thoreau, Modern Homesteading by Mr. & Mrs. Wranglerstar, and Coming Home by Hari Kaur Berzins) but I just finished my first novel. I have never been a huge fiction fan but while looking through the Amazon Kindle Prime Lending Library I came across a book by Kirk Ward Robinson called The Appalachian. Its title alone was enough to peak my interest, for obvious reasons, and I figured it’s “free” so if I didn’t like it I was out nothing but time.

I have to say I was surprised with this one for sure. I walked into it having read the synopsis of an old (128 years old to be exact) Tennessean looking back on his past and the ills of society…or at least that is how I understood the synopsis…and found a heart wrenching journey through a man’s life. While completely fiction it is easy imagine it as truth. Kirk Ward Robinson does an amazing job of describing the places and people throughout. It is clear he did his homework on the places and times in the book, most if not all are actual places…many I have seen with my own eyes.

The last of the baby boomers Carlton is the youngest sibling in his family and lives through some of the most tumultuous and exciting times in the history of the United States. His life is filled with great highs and extreme lows and you are transported through that life with him. Well told in great details it is easy to imagine yourself with Carlton as these events unfold. Most of this book is spent looking back through the 1960’s to our present day with only the last few chapters looking into what is to us the future. The futurescape presented is easily believable and just as equally alarming.

I’m not much into spoilers so I won’t say much more about it’s content but I would greatly recommend it. However be prepared to go on a rollercoaster of emotions as you follow along the life’s story of Carlton Jeffries. I would say this is definitely a book for High School and up ages. Many themes discussed are adult in nature but all tasteful and not overpowering to the storyline. At 748 pages it took me 17 ish hours to read this book, but then again I am a slow reader after all, but it is easy to get sucked into. Consider yourself warned 🙂

Connected Disconnection – Technology and Health Pt. 2

We all lead stressful lives in one form or another. There is no escaping stress…it is one of the few equalizing aspects of everyone’s life. I have heard in conversations with those many years my senior that people today are more stressed than they were when they were my age (some 30-40 earlier). Several studies have been done that have shown this.* Studies are also looking at the links between technology use and stress.

A recent Huffington Post article looked at how social networking is affecting us.** Looking at research by the Pew Research Foundation they found that those who actively use Social Media are 14% more likely to say their lives are “Somewhat Stressful”. The article gives a few reasons for this including the pressure to keep up with others and the drive to put our best self forward. How many of us are truly honest about who we are online?

Admittedly, I have found myself being affected by Social Media Stress. For myself it hasn’t been the desire to keep up with the Jones’s or to show my best face but instead had manifested in self degradation. I have found myself beating me up for being a bad husband/father because I’m not doing all these things my “friends” are doing with their spouses or kids. This of course in not healthy and when I recognize it I log off of Social Media for a while. ***

While I have mainly focused on the physical health aspects in this short series there is also a much bigger and more insidious side…the emotional and relational. In this connected society it has amazed he as to how less connected we have become. When I go out in town I see it all the time…the vast majority on a phone, tablet, or other technology and not actively engaging with the world around them. I have to admit I too have been guilty of this. It seems to be happening more and more but what could possibly be the issue with this use?

It isn’t hard to imagine the possible physical issues that could arise from a distracted person. One could walk into a wall, a hole, or even traffic. In fact these technology distracted injuries are becoming more and more problematic.**** This distraction can cause us to be disconnected from those around us too. Who know what we have missed while looking at our tech…we may have walked past an old friend we hadn’t seen in years.

This distraction can be especially harmful if those being distracted are parents. Besides the obvious lack of supervision that could lead to injury or worse. But what about the emotional aspects? A recent Boston Medical study observed 55 groups of children at fast-food restaurants. They observed that 40 of the 55 caregivers “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.”***** I have to admit I have been guilty of this at times and I admit it wasn’t even important use of tech.

Much of my reading and pondering has been admittedly uncomfortable. I have become convicted and ashamed of my actions. I have taken steps to remedy my stumbles but I am a long way from where I want and should to be. It is a long road and a difficult one. I have found for myself the lure of technology can be an all too tempting one. Lord willing I will reach that point. I hope this short series might help someone.

 

 

* http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx

** http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dick/social-networks-and-stress_b_3534170.html

*** http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/19/213568763/researchers-facebook-makes-us-sadder-and-less-satisfied

**** http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/17/cell-phone-walking-injuries-rise/2824515/

***** http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/parents-put-down-the-cellphones/2014/08/08/0fb48ba4-1db8-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html

 

 

Blue Light Special ~ Technology and Health Pt. 1

I am going to start a small series on technology and health. It is something that has peaked my interest for several months now and I am going to share my thoughts and research here. I started thinking about this when my eyes began to burn and throb and I lost feeling in 3 of my fingers on my left hand. I went to the optometrist who said my glasses were good but that my eyes were really strained and coupled with my allergies was causing the discomfort in my eyes. As far as my hand goes I’ve not been to the doctor yet but I suspect it is carpel tunnel or something similar.

As an IT professional technology is a major part of my life and I can see the many good things it has brought us but I can also see the bad things as well. In this series I am going to show what I have learned and give some advice on how to counteract those negative effects. Admittedly these posts will focus more on the negative side of technology, mainly because the positive is obvious to us all. Please don’t take these posts as a negative rant or manifesto against technology only as an awareness of the dangers and ways to mitigate those dangers while improving our lives for the better. I am definitely no anti-technology luddite…without computers I wouldn’t have a job.

No one, especially parents of young children, can deny that sleep is vital to a healthy life and most of those I know say they don’t get enough of it (including myself). We all know that consuming caffeine or sugary food and drink late at night can cause us to not sleep well. More and more research is showing that our use of technology is affecting our sleep as well.

When the sun goes down and it gets time for our bodies to sleep the brain releases a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that decreases our alertness and signals us that bedtime is near. The pineal gland releases this hormone a few hours before bedtime and begins the process of our body preparing for regenerative sleep. This hormone helps regulate our circadian rhythm that dominates our sleep/awake pattern.

This rhythm is vital to us getting the correct amount of sleep and our bodies be regenerated and us be alert during the day. With the proliferation of the use of modern technology this cycle has become compromised. According to one study the average U.S. adult spends an average of 11 hours a day with digital media*. All of these devices (TV’s, computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.) emit light…more specifically blue light. This blue light is tricking our bodies into thinking it is daytime.

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http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

Many studies have been done that show that blue light is inhibiting out brains from releasing the melatonin that we need to begin the sleep process. This leaves us to stay awake later and sleep less. This has helped attribute to the statistic that 30% if employed US adults reporting that they get less than 6 hours of sleep a night**. This coupled with our fast paced modern society of early work times and long days has caused sever detriments to our health.

This blue light affects adults negatively but the affect is multiplied exponentially with children and teenagers. It is during these years that we establish our circadian rhythm and during these years we are more sensitive to blue light interruption. In one study I read the melatonin levels were measured in adults and teenagers during the use of blue light emitting electronics. The study found that even when teens were exposed to a level of blue light 1/10th less than the adults in the study they actually suppressed more melatonin than the adults in the study***.

Sleep deprivation affects us negatively in more ways than just being tired during the day. The decreased alertness causes us be less productive and increases our chances of mistakes and injury. I know personally when I am tired I make poorer food choices and eat out more because I am too tired to cook. This negatively affects my health and my finances. It is during sleep that our bodies regenerate and heal. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer****.

The blue light also affects our eyes. This may seem like a duh statement but the effects are serious on our eyes, especially for kids and teens. Cases of digital eyes strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome as it is professionally referred to, is on the rise. Symptoms include the short term effects of burning eyes and headaches but there are long lasting affects as well. Blue light is a high frequency light and it can cause cells in the eyes to die off at a faster rate causing macular degeneration*****. These affects are worst for kids and teens because the pigment that the eye uses to filter the blue light doesn’t develop in the human eye until about age 25*****.

So now the real question is what can we do to help combat these negative effects.  Technology is all around us and it is very useful to our lives. Technology and blue light is inescapable nor do I believe we should escape totally but everything in moderation. The ideal would to begin by discontinuing use of TV’s, computers, smartphones, etc. as soon as possible to the setting of the sun. That would be the ideal but of course there are those of us who can’t. I would personally be one of those people and what I do may help you.

First thing I do is to stop using technology as soon as possible in the evenings. Some nights that is 6 o’clock some nights it is 11 o’clock depending on the circumstances. Ideally it would be at least 3-4 hours before my bedtime to allow my brain to send those melatonin inspired commands to prepare for sleep. When I can’t do that I try to stick to using my smartphone where I have a blue light filter program that filters out a great deal of the blue spectrum light. I also use a filter on my work computer to help alleviate the eye strain called f.lux.

This program coupled with the change in habits has helped me. My headaches are fewer and my eyes burn less plus I do sleep better. The change was anything but instant or overnight. It takes weeks to reset that circadian rhythm clock. A bonus has been that I have been able to wind down in the evenings and have a calmer end to the day with less stress. I was personally surprised at the stress looking at the news, Facebook, etc caused. I encourage you to read for yourself and discover yourself what researchers are discovering.

* http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

** http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038%2F497s13a

*** http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/blue-light-from-electronics-disturbs-sleep-especially-for-teenagers/2014/08/29/3edd2726-27a7-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

**** http://www.brighamandwomens.org/about_bwh/publicaffairs/news/pressreleases/PressRelease.aspx?sub=0&PageID=1962

***** http://www.techrepublic.com/article/digital-eye-strain-understanding-the-condition-and-how-to-fight-it/?tag=nl.e101&s_cid=e101&ttag=e101&ftag=TRE684d531

 

Welcome 2015

Well this post is a few days late but our 2014 ended in a whirlwind of sickness and 2015 started very similarly. As I look back on the year I see the impact of the crazy sickness that plagued our family. The year started with Elliana going into the hospital with some mysterious illness that turned out to be Celiac Disease. Everyone else in the house was sick off and on all year with some bug or another. I haven’t totaled all the hospital and doctor visits but I know there was a lot of them judging by all the bills I kept getting.

2014 ended much in the way it began…we went home to Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family and that week ended with my father in the hospital with heart issues and a mommy with bronchitis and 6 sick kiddos fighting this winters lovely bug (thankfully not the flu though). We rang in 2015 with an early bed time and some NyQuil and DoTerra essential oils. We slept in on the first and the day was spent taking down Christmas decorations and nursing ourselves trying to recover. On the second however we found that Elliana’s iron had not gone back up and they began the process if IV iron/platelet transfusions. She will have to have several transfusions over the course of months at the hospital.

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Biggest goal for this year is get healthy :). Mommy is still fighting the bronchitis and had been to the doctor 3 times now over it but at least the kids are feeling a bit better. I don’t make resolutions at New Years but I look forward to this new year and what it brings. Hopefully that will be improved health and sanity but regardless of what life throws at us we are together as a family and as a family we will weather the storms.

Summer Fun 2014

It’s been a fun and crazy summer here. Haven’t had a lot of time to post but I’ve got a few in my head to put down. In the meantime enjoy these pictures from our Summer.

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Pascha 2014

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Pascha* (Easter) this year was an especially busy but good one. Holy week started with my children’s teachers being put on notice that homework would not be turned in this week and that the kids would not be in class on Good Friday…and the drama that that caused. Every night of the week we would leave for services and inevitably would hit traffic and show up 15+ minutes late (most services last 2-3 hours this week though). The services are beautiful and painful all at the same time. This time more than any other we face the sinful nature of ourselves and the reality of the cross.

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The services culminated in the Paschal Nocturnes and Liturgy Saturday night / Sunday morning (starting at 11:40 PM Saturday and going till 3:00 AM Sunday). This service has always been one of my favorites. Reverent and joyous this service celebrates the resurrection of Christ in a way no passion play ever could. It is hard to describe…it is something you have to experience.

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We started attending the Orthodox Church during the season of Lent over 3 years ago. A lot has happened in those 3 years…many changes have occurred. Through everything Christ has been there with us… even in the times I was more like Thomas. The Pascha season was a time of remembrance and renewed energy. Christ is Risen…

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http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha

** Photos taken by my wife @ http://memoriaarts.com

Long Days and Short Nights

It has been a month+ since I last posted. Admittedly that is not particularly unusual, however we have had several things collide into a perfect storm on us. I still can’t put to words my thoughts so here are some pictures and quotes in the interim.

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My dear sweet girl (3) hospitalized for a week with a yet to be really determined illness. 

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Traffic….lots of tunnel traffic back and forth from home to hospital to work.

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The extremely long lasting vigil candle lit for my family….Has been going for over a month now (LED)

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Resilient goofy kids 

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Setting of the old day and onto a new one. 

Hopefully things are going to clam down and I can put words together…but right now I have no words. I leave you with a quote from a book I am struggling to get through.

I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out pursue his own way, and not his fathers or his mothers or his neighbor’s instead.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden

Let us spend one day as dileberately as nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden 

New Year…New Book

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Another  year has set. Like the setting sun above {so wonderfully captured setting over the James River by my Beloved Wife MemoriaArts} the old year closes and a new one begins. We celebrate these times with new years resolutions, parties and new outlooks. I used to make new years resolutions like everyone else…and like most I failed miserably in my resolve.

Last year a trend started to pick a word or phrase for the year.I didn’t pick a word at all just submitted the year to God’s will and let what would be be. The last year was one of change…I moved away from the home area that I knew so well to a city I had never been to…I left a good fulfilling job for the uncertainty of a better paying new one…my children left the homeschool and entered into the public school 2 blocks from our new home. It was a year full of changes and trials good and bad.

This year I am picking a phrase…a Latin phrase….vivere consulto….Live deliberately. For so long I have hung back and let life happen. In part because that is what was easy in the slow country life. Partly because I had an absent father who when he was home was over bearing and controlling and was raised primary by my mother who rolled with the orders and directives. I learned from a young age to just go along with the world and adapt and move as needed. I never really planned for my life…never really watched my finances or planned my time and mainly existed. I realize now after a time of reflection that I never really knew who I was or what I liked.

That changed in college when I met my Beloved wife and had a reason to live and exist in this world. Problem was I wasn’t really sure how to do that and over the past 13 years have failed time and time again. Over those years I have learned a lot…grown in a lot of ways. This year I am making a concerted effort to live deliberately..to plan and set goals. To grow more and be the best Husband and Father I can be. Here is to a new year…a new book with many blank pages to fill.

Time

I hate cliches but the old saying time flies is true. I realized today that it has almost been 9 months since making the move away from home. It doesn’t seem like it has been that long and then it feels like it was a lifetime ago. It got me to thinking 9 months….that is the time a baby is formed in. From conception to birth it takes 9 months to grow a beautiful child. That is is mystical time that we only begin to understand what happens but for sure God forms a child inside the womb of his or her mother (I hate the term its… IT is a baby…a child of God **funny story on that at the end of the post). During that 9 months there is a lot of internal and external stresses that form that child into being. So many things internal and external influence that child’s development. Did the mother eat healthy…did she drink alcohol…dis she take vitamins…etc. These factors affect that child’s development for the better of for the worse. The thing is it is up to the mother to take care of that child…the child has no control over anything going on to them. As they are born and grow that changes and they begin to have more control and input into their life.

Not too dissimilar to the past 9 months here. There have been many internal and external forces and stresses that have begun to shape me and cause me to reflect on who I am and who I want to be. Some I had control over…some I did not…and some in the middle ground. I have to admit this has not always been an enjoyable time of growth. I have spent a lot of time looking back over my life and there is a lot to be happy about and a bit to morn and reflect. I guess the good thing is that I am still “young”…though I feel 95 most days….and can change for the better. Change is coming rather I want it to or not…I choose to make that change a good one to the best of my ability and leave to God that which I can’t change. I have to take that initial leap of faith the drop into the dark unknown may only be a few inches or it way be tens of thousands of miles…who knows. Allons y

 

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Ok so the funny I promised after a serious post. When my wife was pregnant with our 3rd child I had someone ask me when they found out she what pregnant “What is it?”….To which I replied (in my smart a$$ way) a Velociraptor…needless to say she didn’t know how to respond so I said IT is a baby…a baby girl.

 

**Post image provided by http://www.freeimages.co.uk

***Youtube video by Billy Reeder. I have found his Cabin People videos inspiring