Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finally

So after another week of battling health struggles and getting very frustrated at my inability to work on the novel, I finally am doing just that. It's been a pretty quiet Saturday (except we had to get groceries which I hate!) and for the past two hours, I've been on the couch, working on figuring out the suspense plot I'm incorporating into my novel. It's gray and rainy outside, yet the birds still continue to chirp. My cats are as lazy as I am, flopping themselves on the couch or the nearby chair, content to doze the day away.

These are the kind of days I adore.

A short and sweet post today, so I'll leave you with this:


Sunday, April 24, 2016

#ProudHistoryGeek

Over the weekend, I had the very good fortune to attend the Dakota History Conference at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.This year's theme was "World War II Comes to the Northern Plains."

Yep. Right up my alley!

Sioux Falls is about a three and a half hour drive from where I live, so I left Thursday night. And I took my time, even stopping to take pictures of gorgeous scenery and landmarks that I'd never seen before. When the conference started bright and early on Friday morning, I was ecstatic. To be around other people interested in World War II? What more could a WW2 historian want?

The presentations were wonderful. They ranged from academic scholars to independent historians to those who just wished to share their experiences growing up on the farm during the war. It was a wonderful mix.

I presented on the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II and I was very happy to have a big audience. I love sharing history with others.

And of course, I also met a lot of wonderful people. I sat next to a World War II veteran at yesterday's luncheon (he served in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia), met a scholar whom I'd only connected with online, and connected with a delightful woman whose mother worked in Washington D.C. during the war (remember my article on Mary Lou?) and will be a wonderful resource for when I finally get back to that historical novel of mine set in D.C. during the war.

When I came home last night, exhausted (and let's face it, in pain due to my wonderful fibromyalgia and RA!), I was in a fantastic mood. I loved this conference. I loved being around historians. I love the atmosphere.

As I lay in bed recovering, I began to think about what I'd learned. And one of those things was this: history is all around us. Regional and local history is incredibly important, too, and we often forget about it. Even more, each one of us can be a historian! You don't need a degree to record history. In fact, I started tweeting my thoughts and it turned into a lot more than I thought! And here it is (please ignore the location; I really don't live in Austin, Texas!):



Now go forth and make history!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Settling In

I'm happy to say that we are slowly settling in to our new place. It hasn't been easy - for one, I have too much darn stuff, and a lot of that stuff is books! (Well, and my vast Snoopy collection). But I *think* we've found a spot for just about everything and now I'm to the part where I begin to hang things on the walls. I'll also need to pick out some curtains here in the coming weeks.

I've really missed my novel. I want to dive back into it and become immersed in its setting so fully that I am living and breathing my characters and their world. But that will come.

Once I get things settled here at home, I really want to get back into blogging. I never realized how searching for a new home to live in, packing, doing all the loan paperwork, inspections, and moving could so completely take over your life. I'm ready to get back to some sense of normalcy! I have lots of books I need to review for my WW2 review blog that I want to get to soon, and I also have other article ideas. 

For now, though, I have to adhere to my mantra: one day at a time. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Where To Start?

My world sort of imploded in the last two weeks.

Now keep in mind that for the last month and a half, I have been preparing to move. I've been sorting and tossing and stirring up dust motes that have left me sneezing and with runny eyes more than once. During that time, my house has been a disaster area with boxes upon boxes stacked up everywhere.

Two weeks ago (and two weeks before our closing date on the house), my father suffered a moderate stroke. I flew out to Denver to be with him for a few days last week. He's doing well and should make a complete recovery. I'm so, so glad I went, but the trip left me exhausted. Still, I figured I had a good week in which to get more packing done.

Then Monday hit. I felt like a tank had plowed me over, and I stayed home sick from work. That morning, my husband went to the dermatologist for a skin infection. They sent him straight to the ER and he was later admitted to the hospital for a staph infection. If you've followed my blog, you'll know that in 2007 he had a very long hospital stay with a particularly nasty staph infection.

I don't mind telling you my panic button flashed bright red.

Not only was the house not yet packed, but my husband, the man who had once been a professional mover in Germany and is one of the hardest working men I know, was out for the count. Worse, I was terrified we would end up on the same long journey as last time with days turning into weeks at the hospital. And I was terrified he would still be in the hospital today (Friday), the day that we closed on the house and started to move in.

Each day crawled by. I still felt horrible and spent much of the day in bed, texting my husband who was stuck in the hospital. Both of us were sick and we couldn't take care of each other. And we were making contingency plans for the move and for the closing. I called my realtor, asked what we could do in case my husband wasn't available to sign the documents. I brainstormed a list of people I could get to help us move.

But thankfully, the good Lord took care of us. My husband was dismissed from the hospital yesterday (albeit with two big containers of antibiotics for the staph infection) and feeling pretty darn great.

This morning, we closed on the house and as of this writing, my husband is packing up what he can in the moving truck. We have a whole posse of people coming to help us tomorrow.

I'm so excited to be in a house that doesn't have a leaky basement and older than dirt windows and a cracked front window! No more landlady showing up in our driveway, honking her horn, summoning us to her side to discuss something or other. We are the king and queen of our castle once again! :D

But in all of this, there is a longing tugging at me. My writing. I want to work on my novel so badly, but I have literally not had the time or the head space for it.

However, we won't have cable or internet at the new place until Tuesday, and I plan to take advantage of it.

I'm utterly exhausted, both emotionally and physically. My body is crying for a day of rest. But there's too much to do yet.

I will have to stick to my mantra to make it through: "One day at a time."

Monday, February 01, 2016

Snow Day?

We have a big snowstorm headed our way. Now usually these snowstorm predictions tend to be far grander than what actually happens - i.e. we usually end up getting a few inches as opposed to the foot they were predicting.

But this time, it looks like it might be different. And since I work at a university, if the administration decides to call a snow day tomorrow, I will get one, too!

I have visions of baking chocolate chip cookies, of hunkering down with a blanket and a good book, or maybe a few movies. Maybe a nap. Maybe some writing. Maybe all of the above!

What would your ultimate snow day look like?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Never Forget

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day 71 years ago, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, one of the worst concentration camps.

Even though I studied and read quite a bit on the Holocaust during graduate school and in my own free time, it's still difficult for me to wrap my head around how such a cultured nation as Germany could allow it to happen. Historians are still trying to answer this question.

For today, though, I'd like to feature some artwork from survivors of the camps that shows how they felt after liberation. This online exhibit is at Yad Vashem's website. I encourage you to look at all of the art and read about the artists.

Here's one that particularly wrenches my heart:

Israel Alfred Glück (1921 – 2007)

Liberation, from the album My Holocaust
Drawn at Bergen-Belsen DP Camp, 1945
Charcoal on paper
Israel was first sent to Auschwitz in 1943, and ended up in Buchenwald in 1945 where he was liberated.

I urge you to take a moment today to remember the Holocaust. We must keep its memory alive.

Never Again.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pure Joy

Sometimes, the heavens align and that perfect idea for your novel hits you while you're doing the most mundane thing. In my case, it was brushing my teeth last night. I was mulling over my novel, searching for the solution to deepen the central conflict, when it hit me.

And oh, the idea was perfect. So very perfect.

In that moment, I experienced pure, unadulterated joy. I went to bed with a smile on my face, content and happy. Since the writing life is usually full of snarls and pitfalls, moments like these are to be treasured and celebrated.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

House Hunting Woes

They say what kills you doesn't make you stronger...but I'm beginning to question the validity of that statement!

We're planning to buy a house this year. This isn't only a want, but a need. We're currently renting right now and our landlady simply doesn't wish to invest any more than she needs to in this property. That means the windows are all original (1952!), the basement walls have huge cracks which have led to flooding, and there is mold in the walls.

So not only is this a need on a monetary standpoint (we're losing money on heating bills alone) but from a health standpoint. Mold is never a good thing to live with, and when you have an autoimmune disorder like I do (rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome), it can be downright dangerous.

But we, of course, are not the couple that can simply look at a nice, basic house with a two car garage and call it good. Oh no. That would be too easy! My husband is an auto body guy and is tinkering in the garage more often than he is in the house. So that means we need to find not only a nice house with updated electric, a solid foundation, new windows, etc., but we also need to find a place that has room enough for his projects.

I'd take a cute house like this!
And when you live on a budget, finding those things is downright difficult.

I've looked at houses that fit what I want, but don't fit what he wants. I've found houses that have a mechanic's dream garage, but the house is completely awful. I've found houses that would work, but don't have enough room to build a garage, or are too expensive to budget in the building of said garage. I've found places that would be perfect, but are far too out of our budget. And honestly, I do not want a big house. That's just more to clean! No McMansion for me, thank you very much.

It's enough to make me want to curl into a ball and weep in the corner.

We may end up building what we want - though that might turn into a nightmare in itself! Still, it would be better than our current situation.

If only I'd won that $1.4 billion jackpot, this wouldn't be an issue.... ha!

So if you have any pointers on house hunting, lemme know!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writing Companions

I've written about my writing companions before, but it's a topic that can be revisited again and again. Why? Since writing is quite a solitary occupation, having a companion - i.e. a pet - to be there while you're tapping away is a definite bonus.

Here are my three writing companions:

This is Kathryn. She came to me from a local cat shelter, and when she first came home several years ago, she was skittish and frightened. It took some time, and lots of love, to bring her around to my side, but now she is one of the best pets I've ever had. She doesn't cause any trouble like my other one (I'll get to him in a moment), loves to be by my side, and is sweetness personified (well, except when the other two irritate her!).

 And now we come to Slick. Oh, Slick. He came to us as a rambunctious kitten, and he vexes me at every turn. He is also irresistably cute and has the fluffiest fur imaginable, leading to many belly rubs. I've had several problems with him tackling the Christmas tree every year. He also jumps on the kitchen counter an awful lot despite knowing better. And when he wants fed, he lets me know in no uncertain terms. This often means he jumps on my dresser, knocks things over, pulls at the curtains, jumps on my legs, and scratches at the dresser - all while I'm trying to sleep in the morning. Still, he has his moments where he is calm and snuggles close to my side. So I tend to forgive him. Wouldn't you? Look at this guy!

He's adorable, that's for sure. But more often than not, you'll find him being plain ornery.

Now normally, two cats would be the most we would want in our household. But a few years ago, my stepson's living situation become such that he couldn't have his kitty, so she came to stay with us. Her name is Lucy, but we call her LuLu. She is a gorgeous black cat with a patches of white on her chest and belly. She loves to play, and we've found toy mice in the strangest places.
She and Slick love each other, and I can often find them cuddling or giving each other a bath. LuLu isn't big on cuddling, though at night, she often curls up in the crook of my legs while I'm sleeping. This often results in some rather awkward sleeping position for me. Why I don't just move her, I don't know!

I think one of my favorite things to do is write with these three by my side. I certainly enjoy their various personalities!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

When Losing Sleep Is Worth It

In the past month, I've had an incredibly hard time with one scene of my novel. I'd tackled it from several different angles and nothing worked. It was a pivotal scene, and I couldn't delete it. I had to write it.

I figured with my 10 days off over the holidays, I'd have a chance to really work through the block and get back on track. But that didn't happen. I kept fighting it, like a fisherman battling the stubborn fish he's hooked.

All too soon, Sunday night came, and with it the end of my vacation. Monday loomed in front of me, and I was completely disgusted with my inability to crack that scene. In fact, the entire novel felt close to slipping from my grasp. Was my idea bad? Had I lost the threads of my story? Was I out of touch with my characters?

I pushed the dark thoughts aside and decided to watch the first episode of Season 6 of Downton Abbey, then go to bed. But as so often happens when I watch incredible period dramas (like Downton Abbey, Foyle's War, and Poldark), my creativity bursts open and suddenly, the difficult becomes possible.

It was around 10 p.m., my bedtime, and I was still on a high after watching Downton Abbey. I thought, maybe, just maybe, I could make the scene work. So, I opened up the laptop and got to work. And this time...it clicked.

I happily wrote for the next hour and a half, and had a hard time sleeping because I was so giddy with relief.

This, of course, meant a very long day at work on Monday. I had the double whammy of going back to the day job after a long vacation plus not nearly enough hours of sleep. Combined, it almost took me out. But I persevered.

Was it worth it?

You bet it was.

Never give up.