Lisa Hendrix

Myth. Magic. And the power of love.

Downton Abbey: my take on the death of Lady Sybil, and some facts about eclampsia

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on January 28, 2013
Posted under Craft, Life Life, Writing Life
Downton Abbey, aka Highclere Castle

Downton Abbey, aka Highclere Castle. Photo by JBUK_Planet, used under Creative Commons #2, attribution license

Last night, Downton Abbey’s writers succumbed to one dramatic cliché piled on another. In Cliché #1, Lady Sybil was “punished” for marrying below her class (eloped with the chauffeur, for gawdsake!) by being killed off in childbirth. The death of the disobedient daughter, a phenomenon related to slut-shaming, is so common in literature and drama that we all pretty much expect it as soon as a young woman falls for the “inappropriate” boy. In Cliché #2, her death was the occasion for a showdown between the wise country doctor and the titled, pompous physician from London. Guess who won the argument? Guess who turned out to actually be right? Somehow, I expected more originality. (Note to self: Avoid Cliché)

That said, Sybil’s fictional death can serve a great non-fictional purpose: Warning women about eclampsia

Eclampsia is still around, and still potentially deadly. In its early stages, called pre-eclampsia, the pregnant woman has a large, sudden rise in blood pressure accompanied by kidney failure. Untreated, those symptoms can and often do, progress into full-blown eclampsia, the seizures you saw Sybil suffer. Each year, some 300,000 women in the US alone develop pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, and about 75,000 of those have severe complications  that can cause premature birth, loss of the baby, organ failure and other damage. Of those, about 300 women die each year. (Figures come from this article in The Daily Beast.)

My blood pressure suddenly spiked about 4 weeks before my first child was due. My doctor immediately started monitoring me. I had to collect my urine to see if I was shedding protein (a sign of kidney failure) and I had to go in daily to get my blood pressure taken.  Fortunately, my blood pressure went back down as soon as a certain financial stressor was removed (My husband had been unemployed due to his company closing. He’d found a new job, but that month until the first paycheck was tough!). But Dr. C still watched me closely until after the delivery and was ready to do what he needed to protect both me and the baby.

And that’s what’s changed in the last hundred years: pre-eclampsia can now be treated, so it doesn’t have to turn into eclampsia. There are drugs to lower blood pressure,  anti-seizure meds, and so on.  But the warning signs have to be caught, and for that to happen, you have to be informed. If you’re pregnant or know someone who is pregnant, read the article linked above and be aware of the following symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia and related conditions, from the Preeclampsia Foundation website.

Edema (Swelling)
Sudden Weight Gain
Nausea or Vomiting
Abdominal (stomach area) and/or Shoulder Pain
Lower back pain
Changes in Vision

Racing pulse, mental confusion, heightened sense of anxiety, shortness of breath or chest pain, sense of impending doom

The best way to protect yourself from ravages of preeclampsia and eclampsia is to get proper prenatal care, as I was fortunate to have. But if at any point in late pregnancy you start feeling any  symptoms, or even “just don’t feel right”, TELL YOUR DOCTOR or go to the ER and insist that someone listens to you. That insistence could save your pregnancy. And your life.


How to Cook in a Thermos

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on November 1, 2012
Posted under Uncategorized

I decided to play with an old sailor’s trick and cook part of my dinner in a Thermos. The idea struck as I was putting water on for tea just after lunch,  and it struck me I could use the hot water for two purposes.

Since I was going to be eating alone this evening, I pulled out one of the 10 oz single serve Thermoses we had for the kids’ lunches and dumped in 1/2 cup of sprouted rice & quinoa pilaf (bought at Costco). Then when the water reached a full boil, I filled the Thermos and screwed on the lid. Then I made my tea and went off to do errands.

That was it.

By the time I was ready to eat dinner, the pilaf was cooked to perfection and was still plenty warm enough to melt butter. I had it with some leftover roast chicken and a few blueberries. (Wish I’d remembered to take a picture.)

Sailors cook all sorts of grains and beans in the large widemouth thermoses because fuel is precious at sea. Landlubbers use the trick to save money on their utility bill. Presoaked black beans take about 8 hours in a good (metal or glass, not plastic) Thermos. Rolled oats put in a Thermos with boiling water at bedtime gives you hot oatmeal at breakfast time. Dry noodles, a bouillon cube, some minced onion and boiling water gives you a basic noodle soup in about 20 minutes (with egg noodles, you can keep it hot for hours). Get creative and add dried veggies or fruits and seasonings to your basic ingredients to make a meal. (For instance, start some lentils with extra water, then after an hour or so, add rice, cumin, and onion for a hearty lentil and rice dish that will give you stick to your ribs, complete protein.)

One thing I forgot to do was preheat my Thermos with hot tap water. Doing that would have kept my pilaf even warmer.

Of course, you might not have warm tap water,  like many folks on the East Coast right now, and when you do manage to find  a way to boil water, you may have limited access. Use a bit of your precious hot water to warm your Thermos, then dump the water into a bowl to use to wash up and use your pre-warmed Thermos to make a hearty meal that will keep warm for hours. Even if all you do is heat some canned soup or hot water for later, you’ll be happy you did.  When you’re under stress, a warm meal goes a long way toward making you feel secure again.

After my simple success today, I’m going to buy a couple of larger wide-mouth Thermoses so I can cook a lot more things this way. As oil prices go up and we come to grips with what we’re doing to the planet, saving energy is going to be more important. And face it: this is an easy one. With delicious results.


Ben Taylor rocked the tent.

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on September 19, 2012
Posted under Uncategorized


Ben Taylor at the CasbahI had such a fabulous evening last night. Yesterday afternoon I saw a Tweet go by in my stream that said Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor and Carly Simon) was going to do a free concert at a venue near us. I couldn’t confirm it anywhere else, but we went anyway, and sure enough, they were setting up. Ben and his band had stopped off on their tour to play a segment on the local NPR station, and since they had the evening free, had asked on air if anyone could set up a “house party.”

Someone could, and voila. Instant concert. Someone found an opening act; the small, semi-outdoor tented venue produced some food & drink; and maybe 150 people turned up. The band played nearly 2 hours, just for fun, and it was so relaxed and wonderful. (The pic is of one of Ben’s solo numbers, taken with my poor excuse of a phone.)

The music was terrific, of course — with parentage like JT and Carly, how could the guy miss? — but the number I liked most was a poem by Ben’s “uncle” Tim Mayor, What Do You Make of the Stars?  My husband found a video of Ben reciting it at Bush Hall, London. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to make the new WordPress embed it properly, so you’ll have to CLICK HERE. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Hyphens and Dashes Demystified

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on May 22, 2012
Posted under Uncategorized

Recently, there was a discussion on a loop I’m on regarding the various hyphens and dashes and how to create them typographically. There’s a lot of confusion, so I decided to post what I’ve learned over 20 or so years as a writer. Here they are, along with how to produce them—at least on a Mac.

hyphen:  – the shortest; used to break words. (e.g., thirty-five) Simply hit the “hyphen/underline” key. A hyphen is NOT a dash, (nor, for that matter, is it a minus sign, which is actually a different character altogether for use in mathematical formulas.)

en-dash: – one “en” long, which is a typographical unit almost the width of the letter n. En dashes are used when you show a range of values (e.g., 25–30 miles, 16–18 years old) and to indicate an interruption in a word/sentence (e.g., “Run through the gar–”)  Created with Option+ – (Option plus hyphen) (I think that’s Ctrl + Num – on a Windows machine, that is CTRL plus the minus sign on the number pad)

em-dash:  — two ens long, or about the width of a capital M. In typewriter and early computer days, they were entered as a double hyphen –, but there’s really no reason to do them that way any more.  Em dashes are used to set off parenthetical phrases. (e.g., She ran—or at least she hoped she was running—through the garden.) Also used kind of like a colon, to separate the last phrase of a sentence that’s related but not actually a part (All three of my horses lost—Tiger, King, and Flicka). Created with Option+Shift+ – . I’m not at all sure how to produce it on Windows machines, but if you’re working in Word, you can set it up to auto-correct the double hyphen ( — ) to an em dash.

There are other symbols that you can create typographically, as well. Several years back I bookmarked an article with the 10 most common typographical errors that has helped me a lot with things like true degree marks, correcting smart quotes when they’re backwards in years (i.e. appearing as ‘08 when they should be ’08), proper ellipses, and so on, and without having to look up Unicodes or cutting & pasting. Find it at



MySpace. Facebook. What’s next?

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on May 16, 2012
Posted under Uncategorized

I was reading a Family Circle article about kids and social networking, and it was all “MySpace is the biggest thing around, but you might want to be aware of these up and comers” — one of which was Facebook. I looked at the cover

It was from July 2007 — just five years ago.

Now FB is going public, and all that personal info we’ve given them will be in the hands of a board of directors beholden to stockholders. I can’t help but wonder where FB will be in 5 years. Where our information will be. And where everyone will go after Facebook palls.

What’s the next big social network?

New Swag

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on March 31, 2012
Posted under Contests & Giveaways, Public Appearances

Look what I got to giveaway at the RT Booklovers Convention that’s coming up.



It has a nice strong magnet on the back, too. Snazzy, huh?


Morning Mystery

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on March 28, 2012
Posted under Humor, Life Life

This morning, I walked into the kitchen to find this:

Hmm. When I went to bed last night, that bag was on the kitchen table. Intact. With both handles.
I started wondering if I’d left the dog loose overnight but no, she was snoring away in her kennel. (we keep her locked up when she’s unsupervised because she will literally eat everything and we’ve already paid one huge vet bill).

Then the cat wandered out. Remember that missing handle on the torn bag? (I had to bribe him with food to get the picture.)


There was also this, apparently from his efforts to escape.

I haven’t been able to find a mark on him, but I suspect he hurt his paw as he was tearing off the big part of the bag.

Anyway, I got the shears out and cut him free while he was eating. And then I gave him some catnip. He’s fine.

Of course, being a cat, he’s pretending nothing happened.

Nothing at all.








Posted by Lisa Hendrix on March 8, 2012
Posted under Uncategorized

I wish I’d written this. Read it. Spread it. Believe it.



Automated Money

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on March 3, 2012
Posted under Life Life, Nuts and Bolts

automatic |ˌôtəˈmatik| adjective
1 (of a device or process) working by itself with little or no direct human control
Start Late, Finish Rich cover
2 done or occurring spontaneously, without conscious thought or intention


For my birthday last year, my former critique partner and very wise friend, Sheila Roberts, sent me a copy of START LATE, FINISH RICH by David Bach, the personal finance expert who appears a couple of times a month on the Today Show. There was nothing in it I didn’t already know, and yet I was using very little of that knowledge. But now, with books to write, two kids in college next year, and a house to spruce up, I decided I needed to put a few of Mr. Bach’s (and Sheila’s!) principles in place.

First up: Automating our finances.

You’d think a person on the computer as much as I have been for the past 20+ years (almost daily since, oh, about 1989), I’d have long since relegated every repetitive function I could to the electronics. But no. I’ve been a holdout. I’ve paid some bills online for a while, but I never bumped up to the next level and set up auto-pay.

Until yesterday.

Small Change cover

I finally got sick of the whole bill paying thing, and now, almost every bill that can be on auto-pay is, and the rest will be as soon as the billing cycle comes around. I also put the recurring payments in my accounting program so I don’t forget about them.  Once all the auto-pay plans are in place and I’m sure the system’s working smoothly (my husband’s company pays every two weeks instead of twice a month, which makes payday shift around in an uncomfortable fashion), I’ll also automate transfers into  savings.

It doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but I already feel less stressed By my (top of the head) calculation, this will save me 8-10 hours a month in writing checks/logging onto websites, recording checks/payments, and general fussing with money. Plus I’ll never run the risk of missing a payment and the resulting late fee and interest rate penalty.  I heartily recommend it. You can find more from David Bach HERE.

Sheila’s a pro at making dollars go farther, too, and I’ve never seen anyone have as much fun as she does while doing it. She even wrote about three friends who had to make over their finances in her book, SMALL CHANGE. Check out her blog and newsletter for her tips for living like a millionaire on a dime store budget.

What do you think? Do you use auto-pay, and if so, how is it working for you?




Happy New Year’s

Posted by Lisa Hendrix on March 1, 2012
Posted under Contests & Giveaways, News

Blank Page

OK, I know it’s not New Year’s Day in the modern western world, but using January 1 as the start of the civil year is fairly recent. For much of the Middle Ages, the year was considered to begin either at Christmas or on March 15 (the start of spring). In fact, in England, the official switch to a January 1 start for the year only happened in 1752.

As for why I’m personally starting the year late: frankly, this January pretty much sucked for me. I had pneumonia that took me out for the whole month, and February was spent catching up on everything I got behind on and getting my energy back. So I’ve decided to make a fresh start to 2012, and make this, March 1, my New Year’s Day. My blank page.

Part of filling that blank page is to reactivate this blog, which I basically abandoned about a year ago.  Later today, I’m going to sit down and create a blog schedule and brainstorm ideas for posts. One of my ideas is to devote each month to developing a new skill or habit or learning something new and documenting that, along with, of course, updates on my books, snippets of the Work in Progress, and other news. But I’d also like your input for both the blog and my upcoming site refresh.

Tell me:

What do you like to see on an author blog? Whose blog keeps you going back over and over and why? What kinds of things get you excited about an author’s website? Are there extras/widgets you particularly enjoy?

Answer in comments and I’ll pick one commenter to win their choice of my books.

Switch to Day Switch to Night