Monday, December 31, 2012

Five New Year's Goals

It's been an interesting year. But I'm glad to see it go.

Oh, it hasn't been all bad - I've had lots of blessings to count. But major surgery - a hysterectomy - and a major health diagnosis - rheumatoid arthritis - kind of took the wind out of my sails this year.

I don't do New Year's resolutions because I inevitably break them, then feel guilty afterwards. So instead, I just like to make some general goals.

1. Learn pain management techniques. When I have RA flare-ups, I'm in a lot of pain, and that's all I tend to focus on. I need to learn to distract myself - immerse myself in my writing or a book or playing a game with my daughter or having a good conversation with my husband. Dwelling on the pain does nothing but make it worse.

2. Focus on the novel writing. I've done quite a bit of freelance this past year, and I've discovered that while the money is good, it takes me away from my true love: writing my novels. So I've decided to be more selective in what I take on for next year.

3. Stay away from politics, but stay knowledgeable on the issues. I want to be aware of what's facing the country and the world, but I really don't want to argue with people over those issues anymore. It's too brain-draining.

4. Continue to count my blessings every single day. This helps me keep my perspective.

5. Pray more. I think there's a lot of power in prayer, and I need to use it more often!

What's one goal you're making for the New Year?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Season of Sickies

I'm not quite sure what to say about Christmas this year.

The trip home didn't start out well. We made it 40 miles outside of the city only to have to get a hotel for the night because the roads were bad. The next morning, we headed out again and thankfully made it to my brother's house.

But by that time, my body was screaming in pain.

Yes - my rheumatoid arthritis decided it would be the perfect time for a huge flare-up. And it never let up the entire time. In fact, my body still hurts this morning.  And since I'm on a medicine for my rheumatoid arthritis that suppresses my immune system, I have to stay away from sick people. This weekend, that was not easy to do...

My mom had a bad case of the flu - the congested, coughing, headachy kind. She was out of commission for the entire time I was home and I didn't even get to see her, which made me very sad - especially since it's her birthday on Christmas Day!

On Christmas Eve morning, my daughter woke up feeling feverish and with a bad headache. While out getting medicine for her, I got a phone call from my younger brother who was staying at my older brother's house. They had the flu - only the vomiting kind. I didn't see them all day, and while I cared for my daughter at my grandmother's house, I washed my hands with pathological regularity.

Christmas Day - my daughter woke up feeling like she was going to yak. Sigh. So we stayed at my grandmother's house again while my husband and stepson went to his mom's house.

Yesterday - I finally got to see my brothers, my sis-in-law, and my niece and nephew for dinner, but my dad had become the latest victim, so I wasn't able to see him before I hit the road home.

Throughout it all, my legs, hand, feet, and well, entire body just ached. I took naps. I popped ibuprofen. And all I wanted to do was go home.

I got my wish yesterday. And of course, when I stepped foot in my house, what did I find? Cat puke on the floor.

But there are always blessings throughout any trial.

My grandmother loved having me stay with her. We talked and watched movies and ate yummy food. We laughed at how we were a pair because she was walking with a cane and I was limping around the house. I helped her with the dishes and the cooking, and sometimes, we just say together and didn't say a word.

My stepson and I had a great conversation on the way home. I had nice phone conversations with my mom. I received very nice gifts. And it even snowed on Christmas Eve!

Of course, the most important blessing on Christmas for me is the birth of Jesus. Somehow, that got lost in the shuffle this year, but last night, while snuggled in my own bed, my two kitties close by, I was able to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.


I hope you all had a great Christmas - and now, onward to a new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snoopy Prepares

Because the news has been so darn tragic lately, we need a little humor to lighten things up.

What better person, er, dog to give us that humor than Snoopy?


I'm glad to know all I'll need is a sheet and I'll be safe! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can I Go Back Under the Rock Now?

There was a time that I wasn't on Facebook.

I didn't read political blogs.

I didn't read commentary on the Middle East, or terrorism, or any of that.

I didn't read the news every hour, follow the latest columnist on his tirade against corporate America, or those calling for stricter laws on guns/drugs/prostitution/etc./etc.

In fact, I think I was quite blissfully unaware of a lot of the endless chatter going on between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, independent vs. everyone else, and on and on.

And it wasn't just politics, but everything else, too. Atheism vs. Christianity. Heck, even Christian vs. Christian. The culture wars. The sexualization of our girls. And on and on and on.

I lived in a bubble. I was consumed with my writing and my history. I didn't really get concerned about these types of matters until around 2008 when the presidential election started to heat up.

Ever since then, I've crawled out from underneath my rock and in a lot of ways, I regret it.

I've had troubled evenings thinking about arguments I've had with people, turning it around and around in my head to try and figure out how I could have convinced them of my point of view...which is pretty much pointless in most cases.

I've feverishly checked my FB statuses or the statuses of others to see what new comment has been made.

I've hit the "refresh" button far too many times to see what new tidbit of information on the latest tragedy has appeared on a news site.

I've spent countless hours googling information, digging into the issues, and more often than not, finding opinions that generally agree with my own.

I've argued with complete and total strangers on Twitter and, most recently, even a minor celebrity.

I am not proud of this.

I sometimes wish I could go back under that rock.

I'd love to go back to that bubble, to be consumed with my passions - writing and history - and not be so concerned with the noise emitting from every website, FB status, and Tweet of the minute.

In some ways, social media has sucked part of my soul away.

That's the negative view of things, of course.

On the flip side, I've become much more knowledgeable of politics, world affairs, and the myriad viewpoints of just about everyone. I've researched subjects I've never thought to research before because some conversation spurred me to it. I've also bonded with people I don't even know over a shared opinion - and knocked heads with those opinions I don't share.

As in so many things in life, it comes down to this:

Balance.

Being knowledgeable of the world is good. Having an opinion and wanting your country to be the best it can be is good.

But it can also be draining - soul-sucking, mind-numbingly draining.

And when you're drained, you don't have much energy to devote to the things you love.

What is the solution in this day and age where so much of our lives is done online, from paying bills and checking emails to watching movies and playing games?

I'm really not sure. I've done a few things, though. I did delete my Twitter account. I did "unlike" some FB pages where the discussions would get so heated, it would tear me up inside. And I did make the realization in the first place that I had a problem.

But I am still trying to figure all of this out. I imagine I'm not alone.

I've blogged about the Internet being a two-edged sword, so I'm still trying to make sense of how I can make it fit into my life without sacrificing my sanity.

Anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions.







Sunday, December 09, 2012

Blessings Various and Sundry

I try to count my blessings as often as possible, and as today is Sunday, it is fitting I share those blessings with you!

Blessing #1: The day job has kept me busy this week. When I am busy, I am happy, and much more productive with every aspect of my life.

Blessing #2: The Christmas tree is still standing. Barely.

Blessing #3: I had a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis Thursday night. I thought I was getting a cold, but it turns out that this is the pattern to my flare-ups - I feel like I'm getting the flu. I get a scratchy throat, terrible fatigue, and body aches. Sure enough, the next day, my feet and hands hurt. But it wasn't nearly on the scale that they have before. The new medication I'm taking is working. Praise the Lord!

Blessing #4: My good friend Yvonne (who is also a writer) invited me to a World War II-set Christmas musical at her church Friday night. It was fantastic. I'm not ashamed to admit I shred a few tears, especially since it was set right when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Sitting in the audience, knowing that it had been exactly 71 years ago that Pearl Harbor was attacked, and watching this play onstage, really hit home for me.

Blessing #5: I was able to get a nice chunk of writing done on the novel yesterday. It's clipping along nicely, and I am more than half-way finished with it.

Blessing #6: My daughter and I watched Despicable Me last night. Love that movie and love hearing my daughter laugh even more.

Blessing #7: I am so very thankful for my friends and family. They are my rock.

Blessing #8: This picture:
This is my husband. In 2000, we had a St. Bernard puppy named Tiny Bear. He grew to be enormous and a beloved part of our family until he passed away a few years ago. But I sometimes think he has been reincarnated into our cat, Slick (yes, the cat who gives me no end of trouble). When Slick was watching my husband cook last weekend, I had to get this snapshot. Putting them side by side like this just makes me laugh.

What blessings are you thankful for today?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

When You Get Cold...

Winter is almost here. It officially begins on Dec. 21. The temps here have been in the high 50s and 60s, though that is due to change tonight. I'm hoping for snow.

When that snow comes, I will be very grateful that I'm not one of these fellows, standing at attention, in their kilts, to the King of England during a snow storm.

Brrrrrr!

The King inspects officers of 5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders during a snow storm at Gorhambury Park in Hertfordshire, 29 February 1944.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

It Has Begun

I didn't want to wrestle with the fake tree this year. Last year, I nearly tore my hair out just putting it all together, then arranging the branches. It is also a very large tree, so it dwarfed everything else in the living room. So last night, hubby and I went to a local store and bought a beautiful, real balsam fir tree.

Now it's a little crooked, and after we chopped off some branches to make it fit in the stand, it's also a little sparse on the right side. No matter. It was up within 30 seconds and no need to rearrange anything! It also smells wonderful.

It took me about 30 minutes or so to decorate it. I listened to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing Christmas carols, and the only major interruption I had was when my son and husband were yelling at the t.v. downstairs (they were watching college football). Otherwise, it was a peaceful decorating experience.

I think it turned out quite beautiful.

However, the war has now begun.

As you can see by the photo, he is already plotting how to take down that ornament. A few minutes after I took this photo, this ornament became the first victim, rolling across the floor as Slick tore through the tree. But after that, he calmed down and sat under the tree, not bothering a thing. This was a calculated move to throw me off my guard, of course. You see, he has already set a precedent when it comes to his destruction of Christmas trees.

Last year, I tore my hair out over the damage Slick did to the tree on a daily basis. I would come home from work and half the decorations would be on the floor. I'd put them back, only to wake up the next morning and find them on the floor again. Our solution was to place a door in the doorway to the living room every night so he couldn't even get into the room. We just wedge it in place and though it's cumbersome and heavy, it does the job.

When I put up the door last night, Slick was not pleased. He sat in front of it and stared at it, as though he could, by sheer force of will, blast it to smithereens so that he could go and do his dastardly work. In retaliation for my opening volley, he proceeded to annoy me all night long. He woke me up once by scratching on my daughter's bedroom door. I yelled at him. He woke me up again when he jumped on my dresser and knocked over a bunch of stuff. Another yelling commenced. The third time, he woke me up by jumping on my husband's dresser.

When I stumbled out of bed this morning, bleary-eyed and unhappy, I removed the door to the living room and he ran right over to the tree, as though he heard John Wayne yelling, "Charge!" He began fiddling with ornaments, biting on the tree branches, and dismissing my commands to STOP. At one point, he literally had me running circles under the tree. That's when I said enough and put him in my bedroom, then shut the door.

That's where he's at right now. In short, he's been put in time out, like a naughty toddler.

My other cat, Kathryn, could care less about knocking off ornaments and making my life miserable. She loves to lay under the tree and take a nap.


She also loves to pose for photos.
I do believe, if she could talk, she would say, "Look at me! I'm the good one. I'm also cute."

Let the 2012 Christmas Tree War commence!