Monday, December 30, 2013

Face-To-Face

On a whim, I emailed my critique buddy who lives here in town. Not only are we both fiction writers and critique partners, but we're good friends, too. I haven't seen her for awhile due to health problems (both of us), job challenges, her son getting married, the holidays, etc., etc. So I emailed her today to ask if she'd like to meet for coffee since I knew we both had the day off, and she was up for it.

We met at a local place and had coffee (okay, I had a diet Pepsi and a red velvet cookie - bad, I know!) and talked and talked and laughed and commiserated with each other. We talked about our jobs, our families, our faith, and of course, we talked about our writing.

Most of my writing friends are online. I'm deeply thankful for them all because writing is a solitary business. But it is also important to have writing friends off-line, too. Being able to hear the other person's voice and see them face to face is essential for knowing that we are not alone. We can put a face, a voice, a mannerism, a wave of the hand, to that person. Sure, you can Skype with someone, but really, it's not quite the same thing as meeting them in person.

We both resolved not to let so much time go by again before we reconnect. We're also planning to have a mini writing retreat of our own in the next few months. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do nothing but work on my fiction!

In Holiday News...

We had a very quiet Christmas and we will have a very quiet New Year's Eve. We don't ever go out on this night because it's far safer to stay home and it's also a lot quieter. Ha! Does that mean we're getting old? I suppose. My husband told me tonight that he will try to stay up until midnight, but since he is used to falling asleep early every night, I'm not counting on it.

Still, I plan on watching some good movies and having my annual New Year's Eve snack: Lays potato chips and French onion dip. I think I started eating this snack every New Year's Eve when I was in high school, and I've continued the tradition through the years.

Then it's back to work on Thursday! Sigh. I'm not ready. I'd much rather stay home and work on my writing projects. But in a way, it's nice to get back into a routine. I've let my eating habits sort of run by the wayside this past week and a half. Must get that back on track soon! (After the chips and dip, of course!).

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Desperately Missing My Manuscript

It's been almost an entire month since I worked on my novel.

That sentence makes me want to cry. Literally.

Since I have a non-fiction book under contract and already had to get an extension on said contract due to my bout with mono in September/October, I have had to put nose to the grindstone to get this baby done. And I'm almost there. The first draft is on the verge of being finished and then it's editing time. I've really liked the process, of course, and I've learned a lot.

But I've also learned where my true passion is: my fiction.

I actually become giddy when I think about that day when I can finally get back to my novel and immerse myself in it. I can't wait to jump back into the world of fiction writing in blog posts and Twitter feeds. I can't wait to embrace it with every fiber of my being. I can't wait to talk about my writing with my fellow writers.

This entire project has taught me many lessons, but one lesson that stands out above all others is this: I am a fiction writer at heart, and when I am unable to write my fiction, there's a part of me that shrivels up, like a plant thirsty for water during a hot summer day. Only that day has stretched into a month and my parched leaves are about ready to dry up.

Soon, I tell myself. Soon the non-fiction project will be done and I can get back to my true writing love.

Some may ask, why not work on the novel and the non-fiction project at the same time?

Oh, gentle reader, I did try. And I was making a moderate success of it. But then the deadline started looming large and I realized I did not have the energy or the strength to work on both. Maybe if I didn't work a 40-hour a week job, or maybe if I didn't have rheumatoid arthritis snatching away my health at the worst possible moment, I could manage to do both. But I tried and failed.

And really, I'm not making excuses. I'm just accepting my limitations. That's been a difficult thing for me to do, but it's something I've had to do. I can no longer try and do it all, and I refuse to feel guilty for that. In today's world of PRODUCE MORE NOW, I accept that I have to produce at my own pace.

We are alwayso learning, growing, changing. I love that about life.

And on that note, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! We had our family Christmas a little early this year and my husband and I hosted it at our house last evening. It was a truly wonderful time and below is a picture of the tree with the bounty of gifts beneath it. We are an incredibly blessed family. I love them all so much. Family is truly one of the best things about life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December Update

It's December! Goodness. I haven't blogged in awhile.

I've been busy working on my non-fiction book. The first draft is almost completed. It's been a slow, arduous project, but ultimately, a fulfilling one.

I haven't been able to work at all on my novel for the past few weeks, though while on the drive to work today, I did get to thinking about my main character and how she should react in a particular scene. I'm eager to get back to it.

The second Christmas tree is up - I say second because the first tree was decimated by the cats. You can see what they did below (I had only put on the lights, no ornaments, thank goodness).

Since I was in the middle of a rheumatoid arthritis flare, I had pretty much decided I didn't have the energy to  fix this tree or chase cats around all day. But my wonderful husband surprised me with a brand new, pre-lit tree. When he took it out of the box, he sternly told the cats to leave it alone and, surprise, surprise, they have listened (for the most part). I roused myself enough to decorate it, with the help of my daughter, and I think it turned out beautiful.
It has been VERY cold here - a little warmer today, thank goodness, but we've had frigid temps for about a week now. We also woke up to a gorgeous blanket of snow on Saturday morning. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ode to Thanksgiving

Two weeks ago, a local radio station started playing Christmas music. Outrage doesn't quite begin to cover how I felt.

I love Christmas music. Love, love, love it. But before Thanksgiving?

No. Just...no.

The day after Halloween, I saw a Christmas tree up in someone's house. Christmas lights have appeared on numerous houses (I get that good weather is the perfect time to put them up, but do you have to light them?). Stores bombard us with Christmas items for sale, ads on t.v. include jingle bells and elves and Santa Claus, all of it well before Thanksgiving. The whole thing makes me sad.

Thanksgiving has been lost in the shuffle. Even the most glorious of seasons, autumn, is rudely interrupted by this barrage of Christmas commercialization.

So I choose to fight back.

When I go out to my mailbox, I shuffle through the leaves on the lawn and listen to them crinkle and crackle. I absorb the deep colors of autumn, the burnt umber and orange and brown and gold. I savor fall flavors and ignore the beguiling scents of pine trees and Christmas cookies. I don't listen to Christmas music. I don't buy Christmas-related items. I don't even do Christmas shopping.

I try very, very hard not to think about Christmas at all until Thanksgiving is over. Then it's fair game.

Rushing into Christmas spoils the magic of that holiday. It's like sneaking into your parents' bedroom and finding out what your Christmas gifts are two weeks before Christmas morning. What fun is opening a present when you already know what it is?

There's a magic about Thanksgiving, too. It's a different kind of magic. It's a gentle, soothing kind, where we gather with family and friends and enjoy being together without the hassle of worrying about if he or she will like this present, or if you spent too much money on one person's gift and will the other person be jealous, and on and on. (And yes, family tensions are often there whether or not gift giving is a part of the celebration). It's a magic that allows us to relax and eat a good meal, to visit and play games, to laugh and talk, to watch a football game on t.v. or play one outside (weather permitting!).

In short, there's magic in being thankful. It permeates our soul and makes us realize how truly blessed we are.

This year, don't forget the magic of Thanksgiving. Count your blessings. Savor those last scents of autumn. Run through the leaves and listen to them crunch underfoot. Toss a football around. Eat that spice cake full of autumn's flavors. Laugh and talk with your family. And wish autumn a proper farewell.

Then, when Thanksgiving is over, jump into the fun, exciting magic of Christmas and savor every moment.

Happy Thanksgiving!





Friday, November 22, 2013

Proud History Geek

This definition of "geek" is the one that fits me: "a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity:

As we all know, I have a few subjects that I'm pretty passionate about - history and fiction writing.

But in this case, I'm specifically geeking out over World War II history.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans hosts an annual International Conference on World War II. I've never been able to attend in person, but this year, I'm able to attend virtually. The museum is live streaming all of the lectures, and I'm in seventh heaven.

Thank you, Internet.

I'm not shy about my passions, either. Everyone knows that I'm a World War II nut - I certainly don't hide it. In fact, I don't know that there's anything that I've ever been passionate about that I've hid from the world. Everyone has always known that I love to write, too. It's just who I am.

What passions are you proud of?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

And...There She Goes Again

Let me tell you about my weekend.

I was gloriously productive. I cleaned and vacuumed and folded and organized and put away.

I took a walk. (I haven't done that in months!)

I worked on both my novel and my nonfiction POW book.

I didn't take any naps.

I was in a fantastic mood and loved life.

Then Monday morning hit.

Hmm, I thought. Not feeling the best...

But I went to work anyway because that's what I do. I'm a tough old bird (most of the time), but I do try and listen to my body so that "tough old bird" doesn't turn into "weeping female that ends up in the hospital ER" like last time.

So, listening to my body, I only worked half a day, then went home and slept all afternoon. I woke up feeling a little better.


And...There She Goes Again, Folks!

Then this morning hit.

Oh my gosh. If I could get away with a head transplant, I'd do it. Everything hurts from the neck up. Even my gums! This must be the rheumatoid arthritis flaring up. I'm tired and achy with a sore throat and sore ears and a really, really bad headache.

But I'm at the day job because while I'd much rather be at home, I think in this particular instance, working through it is the best way to deal with it.

This all goes to show, however, the cycle of my life. This latest stretch of feeling good (after finally getting over the mono) lasted about two weeks. And this last weekend? Awesome. I felt so productive and capable and, well, not like a person who is chronically ill.

These days only last so long, however, before the chronic illness returns and whips my feet out from underneath me.

So yes. There I go again...feeling like the pits.

Acceptance Brings Release....

But I refuse to let it get me down. I still smile when I think of all that I accomplished last weekend. I still look forward to the next time I can have a similar experience even though I have no idea when that will happen. I am finally at that place, though, where I can accept it.

I accept that I have a chronic illness.

I accept that it will leave me debilitated more often than not.

And I accept that I will keep going despite those limitations.

...And Writing Brings Fulfillment

I thank God for my writing. It is what sustains me through these periods. Yes, sometimes I can't write because I don't have the energy or I am physically (and mentally) unable to. But just thinking about my writing lodges a ray of joy in my heart that nothing can take from me.

I can write about my struggles or choose to immerse myself in my characters' world - it doesn't matter. Both bring me fulfillment.

Contrary to popular belief, laughter is not the best medicine there is.

For me, it's writing - and it is far more effective than any pill.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

Words can never adequately express the admiration and respect I hold for those in our armed forces. The men and women who sacrifice so much to preserve our freedoms are heroes all.

Thank you for your service. I pledge never to forget it.


Friday, November 08, 2013

My WW2 News Round-Up: Themed Christmas Cards, POWs, and Apps!

Christmas Cards

Yes, I know Christmas is still a month and a half away, but since I like to be prepared when it comes to certain holiday traditions - like sending Christmas cards - I had to share this with all of you.

A friend on Twitter designed some WW2-themed Christmas cards. They are fun, lighthearted, and full of good cheer! I love them.

If you'd like to see what they look like AND maybe might like to order some, visit her blog here:

http://jemimawilliams.com/2013/11/08/a-merry-little-christmas/

POWs

As many of you know, I'm under contract with The History Press to write a book on the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II. I'm happy to say that I'm making good progress with it. It was hard at first because although I've written nonfiction articles and an MA thesis, I've never tackled a book-length nonfiction project. Organizing it and figuring out where everything is supposed to go has been my biggest obstacle. But I've slowly worked my way through it and am (hopefully) on a roll.

This means, though, that I haven't been doing much with the novel. Sigh. I miss it so. If I have the energy, I hope I can work on both this weekend.

New National WWII Memorial App

Wow. This is pretty cool.

"Discover the WWII Memorial on the National Mall with the first-of-its-kind free WWII Memorial Mobile app available for download on iTunes and Google Play.
The World War II Memorial app enables users to explore the history behind the memorial and the millions of Americans it honors. The app has straightforward navigation with easy-to-use features and breathtaking photography of the Memorial.

Since I haven't been to the memorial yet - or even D.C. except to grab a connecting flight - this is really fun.

Here's hoping you all have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

IWSG: Cultivating Self-Discipline

You are all going to thank me. I have discovered the key to self-discipline when it comes to writing.

Chocolate.

Okay, that isn't exactly the key, but downing a few squares of dark chocolate can't hurt, right?

Here's a cold, hard truth: there is no one-size-fits-all key to self-discipline or anything else. Each person has to do what's right for them. What works for one person might not work for someone else.

But maybe my method can help you.

So here it is, Melissa's Ridiculously Easy One-Step Guide to Self-Discipline:

Buckle down and do it.

Really.

That's it.

There comes a point when I've faffed about enough on the Internet (and apparently, have spent too much time talking to my British friends on Twitter since I'm using the word "faffing"), close my open tabs, and zero in on the writing task at hand. I don't do any special rituals to prepare my mind, though I may pop a few Dove Dark Chocolates for good measure. I simply get to work and write.

Some days are far easier than others to accomplish this. There are days when my mind is so convoluted and convinced that I must read every last interesting link I've found on Twitter or Facebook that I get nothing done. I hate those days. But sometimes, I have days like that and I have to get the work done anyway. That's when I get very firm with myself and crack the whip.

I'm learning that I need to crack the whip a little more often. I sometimes long for the days before social media. Yet I've made such good friends and connections through social media that I'm hesitant to back away from it. Breaks are always good, of course. In fact, I thoroughly encourage everyone to take a break from the Internet as much as possible.

 But I'm muddling along the best I can and really, isn't that all we can expect from ourselves? To do the best we can? I think so. Adding more pressure to an already stressful existence (and who isn't stressed in this day and age?) won't help anyone, and it will make your writing suffer that much more.


What are your tips and tricks when it comes to self-discipline and your writing? Do share!


This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly blog hop. 
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Does This Happen To You?

This, my friends, is why there is always a pen and paper on my nightstand. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've tried to go to sleep and an idea for my work-in-progress hits me. There were times I didn't write them down only to completely forget them in the morning. Lesson learned.

Always keep a pen and paper on the nightstand!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Succumbed

I'm always behind the curve on the latest trends. It's rare that I jump on the bandwagon as soon as something becomes popular. I'm not quite sure why, but maybe it's my natural reticence to like anything in popular culture because I much prefer the culture of yesteryear.

I was late to the Downton Abbey party - I didn't start watching it until Season 2 started.

I was late to the Stieg Larsson books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

I was late to the Twilight series - I never read the books and didn't start watching the movies until the third one was out simply because my daughter took an interest.

I was late to Twitter, but now I thoroughly enjoy this social media.

I was late to the Big Bang Theory show, and now it's one of  my favorites.

It took me forever to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it was an incredible novel.

I was late to Mad Men and didn't start watching until the third season began.

I didn't get texting on my phone until a few years ago. Now it's an essential tool.

And now comes my latest obsession: The Walking Dead.

I actively avoided watching this show because I'm not a fan of zombies and I really have no interest in a zombie apocalypse. Plus I hate gore. But then my daughter and my husband started watching it on Netflix, and I happened to watch a few episodes. Yeah, there's a lot of gore, but I tend to ignore it because the human drama in this series is so compelling. As a writer, it's fascinating to watch the characters grow and change in lots of different ways.

I am now totally hooked on this AMC original show - and very late to the party, seeing as how Season 4 just started a few weeks ago. Thanks to Netflix, I've been able to get caught up. It's an addictive show and it's very hard to only watch one episode and then wait until the next night to watch another one. No, we watch two or three in a row.

This means, of course, that I've hardly gotten any writing done. But seeing as how I haven't been feeling the best this week, perhaps vegging in front of the t.v. is the best thing for me.

Have you ever been late to the party on something that's very popular in culture?


Monday, October 21, 2013

Writing Problems: #1 and #2

I've got two big writing projects at the moment. One is my novel, which, despite my poor health lately (stupid mono!) I've managed to make some terrific progress on. Unfortunately, I've felt this overwhelming feeling of dread whenever I think about the other project - my World War II book on the POW camps of Nebraska. It's a BIG project and one I'm not quite sure I can pull off.

I've struggled to understand why I feel this fear in particular. Yes, it's a project I've never undertaken before, but there must be a first for everything. Yes, it's a nonfiction book which means I better get my facts right. And I also have a master's degree in history so I really better know what the heck I'm doing.
But what is it about this book that so terrifies me?

I've had to stop and examine this out of sheer necessity. When you are paralyzed on a writing project that has a deadline, you better get it figured out so you don't miss that deadline.

So here's what I came up with.

I'm struggling with 1) information overload and 2) the fear of disappointing others.

First, let's go with the information overload. When I was researching my thesis and copying file after file of documents, a museum curator told me, "The historian with the most stuff wins." Basically, I want all the files. I never know what I might need, what might be a key component of the narrative I'm trying to tell. Some of it (perhaps most of it) won't be used. But I still need all the stuff because there's that one chance that the file I didn't copy is exactly the one I need.

So now I'm faced with a plethora of documents and a word count that I have to meet. And here's the problem: I have enough material for twice or perhaps even three times the word limit my publisher has given me.

Therein is Problem #1: figuring out what information to include, what to condense, what to delete altogether, and how to organize it all. It's incredibly challenging. Getting over this hurdle isn't easy, and I've had to tell myself to just get it all down now, then go back and edit later which is exactly the same way I approach my fiction writing. I'm slowly, slowly getting through it.

Which brings us to Problem #2: the fear of disappointing others.

Let me explain.

Since I started writing way back in the sixth grade, I have made no secret of it. Everyone, from friends to family to teachers to people in the small town where I grew up, knew I was a writer. They have supported me through it all. I don't have any stories about "discouragers." No one ever told me to put this foolish writing dream behind me and get a "real" job. My parents never tried to steer me in a different direction. My husband hasn't rolled his eyes at my writing dream then handed me a basket of laundry to fold. Everyone has always encouraged me and supported me in my writing, and for that, I know I am incredibly, unbelievably blessed.

But all that support and encouragement has had a very weird effect in making me worry that my first published book will disappoint all of those people who've been there for me, that it won't be good enough, that it won't live up to their expectations.

And everyone knows about that book contract because I told them (and yes, even announced it on my blog). Why wouldn't I? I am excited as heck about it and wanted to share my good news. The response was incredible - more support, more encouragement. And no, I am not complaining. At all.

But because I'm a writer who thinks too much to the point of paralyzing myself from actually getting any writing done, this has been quite a big hurdle for me to overcome.

I don't have the motivation of, 'I'm going to write this stellar book and I'll show them that they were wrong about me!' Instead, I have this running through my head: 'They encouraged and supported me and this awful book will show them they were wrong to do so. I am a fraud and a failure.'

Heavy stuff.

How, I ask, does a person overcome those feelings?

By doing precisely what I'm doing: writing about it. That's how I process the world and understand it, through the written word. I can do no less on this particular subject.

I don't have it figured out yet. I still have that little troll sitting on my shoulder and telling me I'm going to take a giant nosedive into the dirt on this book and prove to the world that for all my bravado, I'm a big, fat failure. I hate that little troll. If I could kick him off the roof, I would, but he has sort of taken permanent residence here (I spotted his unpacked suitcase the other day). I'm trying to shut him up as much as possible and just do the work, but it isn't easy.

So that's where I'm at.

What's remarkable about all of this is that I know I'll get through it. I know I'll finish the book and that while it will certainly not be a New York Times bestseller, it will be a good book because I will do my best to make it so. That is a comfort.

But it's when those moments of panic descend and the troll starts yammering that I tend to wonder why in the world I wanted to do this project in the first place.

The obvious answer is because I love to write and I love history. I'm combining both of those passions with this project. But those reasons are getting lost in all of this ridiculous self-doubt.

One day at a time. One word at a time, one paragraph, one page.

Do the work.

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the Incongruity of Time and Other Thoughts

It's the middle of October. How did that happen? The days just seem to flit by, the weeks disappear, and suddenly, Christmas is only a few months away. Terrifying.

Yet as I sit here at my desk at the day job, the minutes are going by excruciatingly slow. I want to tear my hair out. Part of the problem is I'm not super busy, and that always makes the time inch by at the pace of a slug.

Why is that?

And tonight, when I go home, I'll have exactly five hours before I have to go to bed. That time will whiz by, of course, because I'll be busy working on my writing projects, hanging out with my daughter and my husband, and doing housework.

Time, you are incongruous.

Other Thoughts...

1) I'm going to attempt a full day at work today. We'll see how it goes. It's 10:49 a.m. and I'm sleepy. That could be due to a rather uneven night's sleep, though, and not necessarily the mono recovery.

2) Today, I'm also going to attempt to wean myself off of my outrageous chocolate fix. I normally have three squares of Dove Dark Chocolate every day. Since I got sick, that portion control has been shoved into a deep, dark corner, and I've been devouring as much as I've wanted. That needs to stop. So today is the day. I doubt I'll stick to my three squares, but the least I can do is limit myself.



3) Last night, since I had taken a long afternoon nap and wasn't at all tired, I decided to clean up my office in preparation for tonight's writing session. I haven't looked at the history book I'm writing in weeks, and my office was a travesty of scattered papers and piles of stuff. So I got to work last night and tidied it up. Now I don't have any excuses for not getting to work.

4) Unlike seemingly the rest of the world's population, I did not watch the season premier of The Walking Dead last night. I don't like zombies. I do, however, enjoy the Crawley family of Downton Abbey and their posh British accents, so I watched the newest episode of Downton Abbey last night instead. (Yes, I'm in the U.S. and yes, Downton Abbey doesn't air here until January, but I use a delightful LEGAL program called www.tunnelbear.com which allows me to watch British videos on British websites!).

There you have it. Monday ramblings. I wish I could offer something of more substance, but the brain has refused to go any deeper than what I've already put on the page.

Be that as it may, I hope you all have a fantastic Monday.

Friday, October 11, 2013

News Round Up

A few odd tidbits from my life...

On Writing...

I've been fighting with my novel's beginning for over a month now. I will work on other parts of the story and then always return to it with a new idea. Unfortunately, those new ideas never quite work.

Finally, I hit upon a solution the evening before last and got to work. I'm pleased with it and I think it's "the one." In fact, I was so happy with it that I wanted to keep writing last night despite the lateness of the hour and the fact that I had to go to work in the morning. My weekend starts in a little less than 15 minutes, so I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

On Recovery...

Slowly but surely, I'm making progress. I've been working mornings only at the day job, then I go home and sleep all afternoon. I'm hoping to go back to full-time next week but we'll see what my body says. I'm a little concerned about a slight wheezing in my chest. All that laying around has probably not been good for my lungs, and the last thing I need is a bout with pneumonia! Never fear - I'm keeping a close watch on myself.

On Chocolate...

I've been throwing caution to the winds when it comes to my chocolate consumption. I've been eating a lot of the dark stuff lately and can hardly get enough of it. But if I'm going to indulge, I might as well do it when I'm sick, right?

On the Blog...

As you can see, I've been faffing about with the header and the background of my blog again. Still not one hundred percent happy with it, but I'm getting there.

On Autumn...

The leaves are beginning to change colors and it's so gorgeous right now! The air is crisp and invigorating today, and I'm so glad I have the afternoon off. I'm hoping to enjoy this gorgeous autumn day.




Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Blessings

Counting my blessings today. Here are just a few:

1) My husband. He has done the laundry, cooked meals, and kept the house running while I've been sick. He's also made sure I have plenty of chocolate. Love that man.

2) My daughter. She has hung out with me while I've been sick, talked to me about problems she's having with the plot of her current story (yes, she is a writer, too!), and been such a breath of light and love for me.

3) My cats. These two right here have rarely strayed from my side while I've been sick. I affectionately refer to them as my "slugs" because they tend to stay in one spot and barely move.

4) Social media. When you are stuck in bed, social media can be an absolute lifesaver. I've been able to stay connected with friends and family and it has helped tremendously.

5) My writing. I've actually been able to get some work done on the novel and it's been the best kind of therapy there is. To lose myself in that world, to forget reality for awhile, helps so much.

6) My faith. There have been many times during this illness that I could do nothing but pray. God hears my prayers, I know.

7) Chocolate. There's something very comforting about chocolate, and I have definitely indulged in a lot of it lately. 

8) Books. How can one be an invalid and not read to pass the time? Thank goodness I've been able to read some great fiction.

9) Frank Sinatra's album, In the Wee Small Hours. I first bought this album when I graduated from college, and it has a way of transporting me to a safe, comforting place. 

10) Comfy clothes. It really is a blessing to lounge in my pajama pants and be a lazy bum. I confess that I haven't missed putting on makeup one bit in the past two weeks.

What are some of your blessings?

Friday, October 04, 2013

Rambling

I feel the need to write, to get down some words, no matter how badly, and just feel my fingers move on the keyboard. The recovery process has been agonizingly slow and frustrating. One day I feel decent - the next, not so much. Or I'll feel good for a few hours and then the next three are bad. I suppose it's the nature of recovering from mono, but it does get tiresome.

The worst is not having the motivation to do much of anything - watch movies, read books, write, or even journal. I surf the Internet only because a person needs to do something to keep from going crazy, but I'm even bored with the Internet now.

My cats, thank goodness, accept me and my moods and generally have made this whole process a lot more bearable. There's something about a pet who accepts you unconditionally (well, as long as you feed them!) that makes everything easier.

My eating habits are atrocious, but I've been eating what sounds good and not what is necessarily good for me, leading me to fear that I'm going to gain weight since I've been off my regular eating plan. But the scale keeps going down and this must mean that instead of converting calories to fat, I'm still using all my energy to fight off the mono virus. Despite the weight loss, I still don't think that's a good thing.

We had a terrific rainstorm last night as well as a tornado south of us. Today, it snowed in the western part of Nebraska, but here, in the eastern portion, we had another tornado. It's very odd weather, but not so odd when you consider that Nebraska has always been like that when it comes to weather. But the colder temps are moving in the joints in my body are definitely feeling it.

If this post sounds like it's all a bunch of rambling, well, that's because it is. I've been dealing with this illness for two weeks now, and I still do not feel like I'm anywhere near being over it. I need to get back to work. I need to get back to my life. Yet if I push myself, I will only prolong the recovery process.

Patience. Patience. Patience.





Saturday, September 28, 2013

So This Happened

I thought I was having a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. I hadn't been feeling great for awhile, but I just figured it was due to the stress of the new job, school starting, and the whacky changes in the weather - we'd have really hot days, then cold days, and it sent my joints into a tailspin.

I woke up on Thursday morning of last week barely able to move. I also felt very feverish. "Well this isn't good," I thought. I took my daughter to school then seriously considered going to the ER. But I am one of those people who prides herself on being tough (though sometimes, this is sheer stupidity), and so I went home and figured I'd just sleep it off.

I woke up feeling a little better, but knew something wasn't right. And when I wasn't feeling better the next day and went to the doctor, she had no answers for me. "It's not the flu," she said, "and I don't think it's an RA flare." My temps kept spiking and there was really no good reason for it.

I figured I'd feel a lot better after the weekend was over, even though I was still feeling feverish (mostly when I woke up in the morning). I went to work on Monday and though the morning was difficult, I got through it, and I was actually feeling pretty darn good by the time bedtime rolled around. Whatever it was, I figured I was on the back end of it and I'd be back to normal soon.

Then Tuesday morning came. I woke up shivering and could not get warm. My body was now giving me flashing red lights, yelling WARNING, WARNING, and sending alarms off everywhere. I called my mom to take me to the ER where my temperature was 102.7. They started me on an IV, took lots of blood, and tried to get my temps down. I felt absolutely horrible.

Finally, my fever broke and I began to feel better, but the doctors were still puzzled. They decided to put me in the hospital for observation. I didn't argue. I was drained and just plain tired of not knowing what was wrong with me. So after chest x-rays and ultrasounds on my liver and spleen, they took me up to my room where I settled in to try and get some rest.

I didn't have any fevers the rest of the day, so I thought (turns out erroneously once more) that I was out of the woods. But at 4 a.m., BAM. Another temp of 102. My frustration was beginning to mount.

More bloodwork. More waiting on tests. They decided to dismiss me because really, other than keeping me hydrated and keeping my fevers down, there was not much they could do for me until the blood tests came back and they knew what they were dealing with.

I went home and got by as best as I could. I would have periods of feeling decent followed by periods of unbelievable fatigue and pain. I just felt awful. I researched my symptoms on the internet (isn't that we all do now?) and scared myself half to death a number of times.

Finally, I had the follow up appointment with my primary care physician. She had the lab results back and finally, FINALLY, had a diagnosis for me:

Mono.

Yes, that disease that in high school, they called "the kissing disease" because it was transmitted through saliva.

Except I hadn't been kissing anyone and my case was a very bad one.

I already missed over a week of work, and I will miss another week - doctor's orders. My doctor told me I won't begin to feel better for another 4-6 weeks and I believe her. I am unbelievably tired and there are times I feel so awful that I can barely stand it. But the only thing that will make me better is sleep, getting plenty of fluids, more sleep, and more sleep after that. There is no magic cure for this viral infection.

Where did I get it? That's a good question. But since I have RA, my immune system is already suppressed and is susceptible to a lot of stuff. I work right next to a college campus and park in a parking garage with lots of college kids, so maybe I somehow picked it up from a door handle or something. Who knows? I'm sure I never will.

At least I know what is wrong with me. Not knowing for over a week was really difficult to deal with. Now I just need to find the patience to rest as much as possible and recover. At this point, it's not a problem at all. I barely have any energy to get out of bed let alone do the dishes! I'm just so thankful that my family is rallying around me to help out. My husband and my daughter have been wonderful at supporting me through all this.

Thankfully, the fevers are very few and far between now. I haven't had any today and I hope that trend continues. They are miserable to deal with. And if I could just get some sort of an appetite back, that would be great, too. Baby steps...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ode to Autumn

It's autumn. Oh, that most glorious of seasons, with the hint of spice in the breeze, the promise of harvest, the tantalizing glimpses of chilly evenings snuggled under a blanket with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. I love the crispness in the air and how summer tries to keep its tentacles in us for just one.more.week, yet autumn will not allow it (thank goodness). The earth begins to settle, to realize that a good, long slumber awaits, that a time for nesting and cuddling and cozying lies ahead.

To celebrate the season, I put pumpkins on my front step tonight and put my autumn Snoopy flags up (yes, I have a Snoopy flag for every month!). I scattered acorns and leaves on living room surfaces, replaced old candles with new, and savored the cool breeze coming through the door as I worked.

Autumn is here.

This is when I, too, begin to get comfortable, to wrap the cocoon of introversion around me even tighter, and to savor my moments at home. I delve into my writing, connect with my words in a way that I just can't manage to do in the summer, and bask in how the season permeates everything around me. Yes, there is pumpkin-flavored everything, but there's also long, comfy sweaters, and worn jeans, and heavy socks and slippers.

Autumn is a season that embraces you. It tells you to slow down, to listen, to look, to savor, smell, and touch its every facet. Autumn encourages you to relax, to get comfortable, and enjoy all that life offers.

The depth of winter, those months after Christmas, turns us hard, makes us bitter in many ways, as we scoop snow or have our cheeks pelted with ice or wait for the car heater to just get warm already.

Spring encourages us to emerge and breathe, to open our arms and dance, to delight. To experience renewal.

Summer tells us to go faster, to do it all, cram in every last experience. Seize the moment. Summer is fleeting! Sail the boat, take the vacation, go camping, go swimming, have get-togethers, barbecue, again and again, and then once more because summer won't last forever! And it doesn't, and when it ends, we are exhausted.

And then comes autumn.

"Come," she says, her voice quiet and sure. "It is time for you to stop. To look. To really see."

You go to her, hesitant, unsure whether to leave the siren call of summer behind. But then, autumn smiles and throws a beautiful blend of all that encompasses her into the air where it shimmers and shines like fairy dust. It's a blend of apples and pumpkins and acorns, of scattering leaves and glowing candles, of brisk air and thick quilts, of love and softness and warmth and family.

Yes, you think. This is what you need, what you crave. You want to see.

And it is autumn that opens your eyes.







Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Celebrating Historical Romance

In the '80s and '90s, I read little else but historical romances. These were the times of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Celeste De Blasis, of Jude Deveraux and Roberta Gellis. I devoured these books and they largely contributed to my love for history.

While I don't read a lot of straight historical romances any longer, I *do* love historical fiction that has strong romantic elements - and that's what I write.

My friend Evangeline Holland, a writer who focuses on the Edwardian Era and World War I, has a great series this week on historical romance and I've added my thoughts on the subject. If you're so inclined, head on over to her site and check it out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Long Road to Acceptance

I wish the title of this post referred to the long road to my novel being accepted for publication, but alas, that is not the case.

Instead, it refers to what so much of my posts lately have dealt with - my health.

After another unproductive writing weekend due to poor health, I had a startling and rather frightening epiphany: I can no longer do everything I once did.

This is a staggering realization in more ways than one. I've always loved to travel, but now, just making the trip home to western Nebraska results in a flare up. How am I going to go to all the places I long to see - Italy, Germany, France, Austria? Those trips involve a lot more than getting in the car and driving to my destination!

Then there's taking care of the house. I am very blessed to have a husband that helps with the laundry, the cooking, and the cleaning. He's always been that way. But I want to pull my fair share of the chores, too, and I'm realizing that it takes all my energy sometimes just to vacuum.

Of course, the biggest fear I have is not being able to write everything that I want to write. On one level, I accept that I'll never be able to tell all the stories I want to tell because there are simply far too many. But I'm struggling with the projects I already have on my plate. Months ago, I had more energy and more enthusiasm - but the rheumatoid arthritis ebbs and flows in intensity, and right now, it's been keeping me down for the count more often than not.

I'll get them done - there's no fear of that. It's just that my timeline will be slower than usual.

And that is what is hard for me to accept. A slower pace. A reduced work load. Days when I simply don't have the energy or stamina to do the work. But there is always a voice in the back of my head that reprimands me on these days. It says, "You're being lazy. Get tough." And since I battle procrastination, I wonder if I'm using my health as an excuse to procrastinate.

But I instinctively know this is not the case. It's not laziness - it's inability.

Accepting that it is inability is the hard thing.

I once read a blog post from someone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis who talked about the grieving process over his disease. I didn't understand exactly what he meant by grieving. Now I do. I grieve my lost energy. I grieve my pain-free existence. I grieve the fact that I will always have this disease - it's never going away.

However...

There is a bright side to this.

My writing.

I always come back to my writing. Why? Because that's who I am and what I do. I explore and understand my world through words. This will only lead to a richer, deeper, more meaningful life. And what is bad about that? Absolutely nothing.

But that's not all. I want others to see that suffering from chronic illness isn't the huge obstacle it appears to be. It is a mountain that needs to be climbed, yes, but you are not alone in climbing it. Others are right there with you, ready to lend a helping hand, ready to cheer you on as you take that next step.

We all have obstacles in life. Every single one of us. How we choose to look at those obstacles and overcome them is what defines us and shapes us and makes us into the person we want to be.

I'm choosing not to be bitter. I'm choosing to be positive. Does this mean I won't have down days and days where I complain and whine? Not at all. I'm only human, after all.

Acceptance is an ongoing process. On days like today (when the pain is bad and I just want to sleep), it's easier because I'm right in the grip of my illness. I know I can't do it all. But on the days when I feel better, I forget about those bad days and charge full steam ahead. Then, when I initially get hit with a flare up, acceptance is so hard. I'm on a good run and then slam headfirst into a brick wall.

I need to find a happy medium!  But I'm working on it, and God is helping me through it. Trusting in Him is what I need to do. The peace I feel when I do that is immeasurable.



Sometimes I wonder if I should be this personal on my blog. But the answer always comes back to me as a resounding YES. If I can help even one person, if I can give them comfort or encouragement through my trials, then putting myself out there is worth it.

Onward!




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Joy

Remarkable.

One day the skies fill with thick clouds, obscuring your vision of the future, keeping you trapped in the here and now, in a place you don't want to be. 

The next (or perhaps the day after the next day), those clouds disappear. The sun emerges and the serenity, the fulfillment and bliss of life, once more settles comfortably around your shoulders. You breathe a sigh of relief, for you were waiting to exhale (even though you never did like that movie) and your patience has been rewarded.

The joy has returned. Perhaps it's the cooler temps, the promise of autumn right around the corner, the burst of creativity in the novel, or the simple state of being alive, but the depression has fled into its dark corner.

Make no mistake, it will return. But thank the Lord it decided to only stay a short while this time, not even long enough to unpack a suitcase before happiness reappeared and kicked it's sorry behind to the curb.

On Sunday night, you were thinking, "It will get better." Today, you think, "It is better."






Sunday, September 08, 2013

Depression

There's a word for it that the psychologist and psychiatrists and therapists use - depression. But it's a word that doesn't quite encompass the feeling. There's more to it than that. Life is lackluster. There is no color. Everything is gray. Tears lodge in your throat and you have no idea what to even cry about. There is no reason. Why, life is good - a new job, new challenges, so many blessings to count that your heart is overflowing.

And yet.

It remains. It sneaks up on me, settling in my bones, a partner with the rheumatoid arthritis, sneaky little bastards they are, joining forces against me. I put up my defenses as best as I can. Take my meds. Read a book and lose myself in the story, forget the pain in my heart and in my joints. But the moment I look up from the book, the moment I recall my place in my reality, it comes back. All of it.

They say it's a chemical imbalance, they who know such things better than I do, and I believe them. Sometimes I don't want to think the reason for my heartache is a matter of brain chemicals that I have no control over. Go for a walk, they say, and get those endorphins going! Except I can't walk, not when my knees pop and crack, not when the exhaustion coating every single cell in my body refuses to let me do anything but stay in bed.

Write, I tell myself. Lose yourself in your story. So I open up the laptop, begin to write, let the words pour free, tell the inner editor to go stuff himself because I don't need any more criticism or negativity to hit me when I'm at a low point already. I write and I think that soon, there will be a day that I read this, a day where I am not depressed or hurting, a day when I will be smiling and enjoying life and the curl of my cat's paws as he moves in his sleep, or the feel of my husband's fingers curling around my own, or the wide smile my daughter gives me as she shares her heart with me.

But it's not today. Maybe it's tomorrow. Or the day after. There is always hope that this time, it will be short-lived, that it will not bring the suitcase with it and settle in the guest bedroom. I think of waking up in the morning and greeting the day with a yawn and the familiar grumble of morning activities, but then I will see the gorgeous blue sky and hear the birds chattering to each other and see the bustle of humans on their way to work and think, it truly is a wonderful world and glad I am to be a part of it today.

That is my hope.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Truth Revealed



I saw this on Pinterest today and I had to laugh:







Why did I laugh, you ask? Because this saying is true. Here's proof:

Yes, I bought a genuine, 1940s typewriter two years ago and it proudly sits in my office, reminding me of those first heady days when I wrote using my mother's manual typewriter.

I would buy more antique typewriters if I could, but alas, I haven't the money or the space for them, so I shall be content with this one for now.

One thing I will say, though. It is much easier to type on a keyboard than it is a typewriter!


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Got the Writing Ups and Downs? IWSG Post

I've been writing since the sixth grade. I set up my mom's manual typewriter on an old school desk that my dad salvaged from his country schoolhouse. I used to spend summer nights in the nice, cool basement, listening to the radio, and typing away on my stories. I look back on those days with absolute fondness that has nothing to do with rose-colored glasses. It was a good time. It was a marvelous, creative, inspiring time. I conjured characters and insane plots and typed them all, meticulously recording how many pages I'd written on a lined sheet of paper I stuck to the concrete walls with a piece of black electrical tape.

I still have that piece of paper.

But as I have grown older and wiser in this writing gig, I realize that those heady first days of writing were not the norm. The norm also wasn't those dark days of despair when I sat and stared at the keyboard and not one single good idea emerged.

So what is the norm?

Both.

There are heady days full of joy and wonder. There are dark days full of angst and hand-wringing.

Both are intrinsic to the writing life. It's something I'm coming to accept more and more. When I get into a slump, I try not to panic because I know this is part of the cycle. The good part of the cycle will come back around again - I just have to survive long enough for it to show up.

Would it be nice if every single day was a gift from the writing gods, where they sprinkled amazing ideas, beautiful phrases, and witty dialogue into your brain? Sure. But then, would we really recognize the magic of writing if it was magical each and every day? Wouldn't it start to get, well...stale? Boring? Wouldn't magic become just...ordinary?

This is why we need both the good and the bad writing days - to help us keep our perspective, to help us experience all that the writing life has to offer. How else can we translate that experience onto the page? Answer: we can't.

So accept those down days, those days when the writing is hard and you want to chuck your keyboard through the nearest window. Be grateful for them because they show you just how good this writing gig can be.

Embrace them. Learn from them. Use them.

This post is part of the Wednesday postings for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some Excitement...Finally

Writing has been the proverbial roller coaster lately. Lots of ups and downs, though the last few months have been a LOT of downs.

I knew when I finished writing my fifth novel that it would need major revisions. Little did I know just how major - we're talking ripping out most of the last half of the book. But my brain worked slowly and steadily toward a solution. I took notes, wrote down ideas, and did a lot of thinking.

Last night, all of it finally made sense.

And I'm excited for this novel again.

This is a very, very good thing. I can't wait to dive in and do the work. It's going to be a long haul, but the finished product will be worth it.

What has excited you in your writing world lately?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pardon the Mess

I'm fiddling with my blog. I am one of those people who can never keep the same design or background for the entirety of my blog's life. That would just be boring. So I've switched up my template and am in the process of creating a new header.

I've been hit with another flare up of my RA, which doesn't surprise me as I've been going strong for the past month without any problems. But I was laid up all weekend. I pretty much slept and watched t.v. and read. My daughter and I even watched the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie, Cleopatra, a four-hour odyssey that my daughter actually wanted to watch. She, like me, is a sucker for a love story.

That means, however, that I didn't get any writing done on the POW book or the novel, and I am anxious to remedy that except that I'm still not feeling good, but am at work instead of at home (and I'm not sure this was the best idea...).

But you know what? That's life. Gotta roll with the punches. Mourning the loss of this weekend isn't going to get me any closer to achieving my goals, and neither is pushing myself to work when I know my body will only rebel and force me to take it easy. I'm learning to listen to my body because if I don't...oh boy. The consequences are quite ruthless.

That's the update from this end. Not much, I know.

Oh! And our temperatures are in the high 90s all week long. Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know well my hatred for heat - and the fact that it's officially fall according to the school calendar if not the regular calendar just makes it that much worse that I have to endure heat now when the blasted weather had all summer to get up to its scorching temps.

I digress.

At any rate, it's gonna be a hot one, which means I won't be doing anything that requires me to be outside. In short, I'm retreating into hibernate mode.

And I'm okay with that.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's Not Always About the Writing

There was an interesting post the other day over at Writer Unboxed on "The Dreaded Solitude of Writing" by Porter Anderson. I found it fascinating how some writers are so consumed by writing that even if they wanted to take a walk while in the midst of creating, they can't because it would interrupt the work. They are so disciplined that the writing comes first. Self-isolation and solitude are necessarily a part of such a committed writing life.

But when I read this writer's quote, about not being able to take a walk even if they wanted to, it made me feel, well...rather sad.

Now understand that I know how important discipline is to the writing life. Writers are world-class procrastinators, and if we let ourselves do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to, we'd never get anything done.

But there's discipline, and then there's...dare I say it...selfishness.

We writers are really good at not writing. That's why there are endless books, internet memes, and articles on how we should just write, darn it, and quit messing around. The writing is the be all, end all of our lives and we need to start ignoring those dirty dishes in the sink and the piles of laundry and just get the words down.

Yes, we need those books, internet memes, and articles to help us put aside our procrastinating ways and get to work. But I also think we're in need of something to balance things out a little more, something to show us that while writing is important, there are other things that sometimes should come first.

Here's an example.

My daughter is in her last year of middle school (which means high school is next year...gulp.). As a teenager, she's going through an absolute mishmash of changes - emotionally, physically, socially, etc. She has questions and concerns. And, thank the Lord above, we have the type of relationship where she comes and talks to me about them.

(As a slight tangent, I would say that teenagers need their parents more now than they do at any other age. They need us to be there for them in every way imaginable to help them navigate this confusing obstacle course of adolescence. But that's another topic for another post.)

I've noticed that she wants to hang out with me more now than she did a few years ago. This would seem to be the opposite of the typical teenage view that all parents are dorks and dumb and can't possibly understand what they're going through and should be avoided at all costs. So I'm rather glad that she enjoys spending time with me.

But sometimes, this cuts into the writing time. There are evenings where I'll be working away and she'll come up to my office with something that's bothering her and wants to talk. Or she just wants to hang out. And even though I have a deadline that I'm trying to meet, I put aside the writing and I listen to her.

Because the writing, though important, is nowhere near as important as my daughter.

The same goes for the rest of my family. If I haven't had a chance to catch up with my husband all day and I have to choose between either an hour of writing time or an hour with him, what do you think I'm going to pick? My husband. Every. Time.

Does this mean I'm not committed enough to the writing craft? Some might say yes. They are perfectly entitled to those beliefs. I don't share them, however.

But here is what I wrote in my comment over at Writer Unboxed: "I could have ten New York Times bestsellers to my name, but if I don’t have my family to share in my success, it will mean exactly nothing."

I firmly believe that.

We can become too obsessed with the writing, to the detriment of all else. We can become so obsessed that we forget to take a walk and see the beauty of God's creation, that we can forget to enjoy time with our family, that we can forget to experience life.

Because if you don't experience life, how in the heck are you going to write about it?

I propose a balance, a sort of triage system.

Each situation is unique; each moment is unique. If you're writing, or you need to write, and something else is competing for your time, evaluate which is more important at that moment. Sometimes it really is the dishes (especially if they have started to spill over onto the counter). Sometimes it really is taking a walk. Sometimes it really is listening to your daughter share a problem from school.

And sometimes, it's the writing. The dishes don't need to be done because, well, there's only a bowl in the sink and you're just procrastinating. And you don't need to take a walk because you've got to submit your freelance article in exactly one hour and you're not finished yet. And your daughter isn't sharing a problem at all, but has determined to tell you every last detail about the new rock band she likes and won't you just listen to their song and watch this video, and then maybe go to their website and see this cute picture of the bass player and....(look, it's always good to take an interest in what our children are involved in, but if this is the same rock band she told you all about last week, you have my permission to smile and nod and say, "honey, I would love to talk to you about the bass player's latest tweet about his love for peanut butter and how you love peanut butter and wouldn't the two of you make a perfect couple, but I need to get this finished up, okay?")

Balance.

So. What say you? How do you balance life with writing?



Monday, August 12, 2013

The Price of Love

My weekends are my rest and recuperate time.

I am not one of those people that tries to cram every last activity into two days only to end up exhausted and spent (but happy) on Sunday night. Instead, I work on my writing, putter around the house doing housework, watch some movies with my husband and daughter, and take naps.

Yeah, really exciting.

Occasionally, we will take a weekend trip, but I can't do too many of those. Traveling has become increasingly harder on my body ever since the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis last year. In short, I have to be very careful to conserve energy. I use too much of it, I pay for it.

This last Saturday, something unusual happened. I did not sleep in. I was up at 8:30 a.m. and stranger still, I actually had energy to stay up instead of eating breakfast and then falling back asleep for another hour. So I went upstairs to my office, booted up the computer, and got to work on that history book I'm writing. I also did some housework, swept the driveway, and made a grocery list. Then my daughter and I headed out to finish getting her school supplies and also to get groceries.

I am a classic introvert, but I am also a pro procrastinator, which means I should have known better than to put myself in a situation where I would be surrounded by parents with children, all of them doing the same thing I was doing - waiting until the last minute to get school supplies. Suffice to say, by the end of the shopping session, I was ready to scream, and my body was aching.

After unloading groceries and decompressing for awhile, it was time for date night, and even though I was exhausted, I wanted to go. Both hubby and I started new jobs this year and our schedules have been somewhat erratic. A happy marriage is a marriage where you take the time - and make the time - to connect with each other. I was quite happy to go, and quite insistent.

A movie was out of the question since hubby wouldn't have stayed awake long enough to watch it, so we settled on bowling. We got to the bowling alley, paid for our games and shoes, then went to our lane only to discover...

...that we were surrounded by parents and young, screaming children.

Well. When you already pay for something, no use wasting that money, right? So we made the best of it. We bowled two games before my tolerance for noise and rambunctious children hit its threshold. And, dare I say it, my body hit that threshold at the same time.

When you have a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, deviating off of a schedule can wreak havoc on your body. For me, the entire day had been a deviation.

And on Sunday morning, oh boy, did I pay for it.

I didn't crawl out of bed until noon. Still, I was bound and determined to work on that book (when you have a deadline with an actual, real publisher, it has a way of overriding your excuses), and I headed back to my office. I kept at it all afternoon, and also managed to try a new recipe - sloppy joe stuffed peppers - before ten p.m. rolled around and it was bedtime.

Funny thing, though, is that I was on a role with writing the book and didn't want to stop, even though my body was saying, "Go to bed, you daft woman!"

This morning, I woke up discombobulated (I love that word). Everything moved in slow motion - especially my body. My mind wasn't sharp (an unfortunate side effect of the medication I take) and I felt like I was wrapped in cobwebs.

It's early afternoon now and that discombobulation has progressed to an urgent need to crawl into bed and take a nap. Alas, I must keep working at the day job.

This, then, is the price of love.

I love to write, so I did.

I love my husband, so I went bowling.

Caveat - Before anyone thinks that my husband is a big ol' meanie who drags me out of the house despite how I feel, I can assure you that is not the case. He is my warrior, and my biggest supporter. He understands what I'm going through and tries to reduce my discomfort and pain as much as he can. He will be the last person to insist on me doing something if it's going to make my health worse. But in this case, I was insistent.

The thing is, when my RA flares up, I can forget my symptoms by diving into my writing or by reading a really good book. That's my escape.

And when I'm with my husband, who is my best friend, I am surrounded in a cocoon of unconditional love.

So really, a tired body on a Monday morning (and afternoon!) isn't such a big price to pay for love.




Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Is Dessert Day

Since I changed my eating habits to lose weight back in January, the most anticipated day of the week for me is Friday. Why, you ask? Because I allow myself one delectable dessert a week - and Friday is the designated day.

This has worked very well for me. I eat my regular meals - minus any cakes, cookies, pie - during the week (my nutritionist built in my 3 squares a day of Dove Dark chocolate into my meal plan). Then on Friday, I allow myself an indulgent treat. If I were not addicted to sweets, then I'd pick some other indulgence - say a huge portion of Doritos or a mall pretzel. But my mother and my grandmother's penchant for being terrific bakers when I was growing up made me develop a very sharp sweet tooth. I'm not a big candy lover, but give me homemade chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, apple pie, cinnamon rolls...yeah. I'm a happy gal.

Except you can't eat that stuff and expect to lose weight.

Thus, the "once a week" idea was born because you have to reward yourself for all that hard work, correct?

And guess what today is? Friday. Which means it's Dessert Day.

Waiting for me is a cookie called the OD. We have a fabulous place in town that makes these oh-so-delectable homemade cookies, and the OD is a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. OD'ing on chocolate is never a bad thing.

Here's to Friday - and here's to Dessert Day!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I'm Back

Here's the thing about blogging. You can use it however you want to use it. Want to establish a platform to sell your book/invention/greatest spaghetti sauce ever made? Blogging is one way to do it. Want to connect with other people with the same interests? It's good for that, too.

It can be full of your boring thoughts and bad jokes and cute, winsome photos that no one will care about reading. It can be rich, evocative posts about writing or raising children or cooking or life - and you can garner a readership of thousands. You can build a community and interact with others as little or as much as you want to.

The bottom line is, it's yours to do with as you want. But if it gets to the point where it's a chore, then it's time to step back.

So that's what I did.

But now I'm back. It's time. I want to reconnect with all of you and share thoughts on writing and parenting and books and movies and life. I want to visit your blogs and see what you've been up to, I want to encourage you and support you, laugh and cry with you, celebrate, grieve, whatever the case may be.

In short, I want to connect.

I blogged awhile ago about the possibility of blogging being a dying social media form. After containing most of my online presence these past few months to Twitter and Facebook (yes, I caved and joined Twitter), I haven't changed my mind about what makes blogging such an incredible way to connect with others. In short, if blogging is dying, it's a shame. But I don't think it is dying - at all.

Don't get me wrong - Twitter and FB have advantages. I've Tweeted history questions to noted WW2 professors on Twitter and received an answer. I've connected with other WW2 enthusiasts and had a great time discussing various aspects of the war. But those are more real-time conversations. They're not the type of conversation where you can take the time to read and re-read, and really absorb what it is that you're reading. If you do that on Twitter, the conversation passes you by, not to mention the fact that you have to limit your responses to 140 characters or less.

With blogging, it's more personal. And I think in this day and age, with rapid response being the go-to function for most of us, we need that personal touch. Blogging provides that.

In the past few days, I've noticed how much I've missed the sense of community I have with my blog. When I'm actively blogging and reading and commenting on other people's blogs, I don't feel so alone in this writing business. I don't feel like I'm in a cave in Antartica. I feel like I'm part of something.

For a long time, I always felt like my blog posts had to be deep, meaningful posts that conveyed some great truth (or attempted to) about writing or life or parenting or whatever. While I *hope* I've had those types of posts in the past, I realize now that I can blog about whatever the heck I want to. My blog, my rules, right? Well, to a certain extent. I'm not in the business of offending people, so I'll continue to keep politics and religion out of my posts unless I feel in the mood to vent/whine/celebrate. Ha!

Right now, I want to just blog just for the sake of blogging, just for the sake of putting my writing out there again. I've suffered a relatively significant blow to my confidence where my writing is concerned, and I've been mentally crippled for the past month or so. I have some good days, but the majority of the time, it's been a non-stop, "I don't have what it takes anymore" repeating in my head.

Not good.

Part of the reason this happened is because I put myself into isolation mode from those who I realize I've grown to treasure a lot - all my blog readers.

So it's time for the walls to come down. Of course, if I'm honest, I have to admit that summer does this to me. I go into isolation mode, rarely venture from the house (too hot) and generally have a foul attitude. But this summer, we've been rather fortunate to escape the really hot temps (in the past, we have clocked in near 110 sometimes) and we've enjoyed a relatively mild summer.

Still, I just don't like summer. I am not a camping/sun bathing/beach/swimming person. Give me the choice between a tropical island and a cottage in Scotland and you know which one I'm going to go for - the cottage every single time.

All this rambling is to say - I'm back to blogging. I plan to post whenever I want on whatever I want. And there's freedom in that. I think I'm going to embrace the freedom.

Autumn is just on the horizon, and I'm looking forward to all that it brings - but most especially, I'm looking forward to the time when my brain decides to turn the mood from "snarky and lazy" to "content and productive."

I can't wait to connect with all of you again.

I'll leave you with this:

Write (and live) with joy, with passion, with intent.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Do the Work

It's nearing 10 p.m. and my bedtime. I'm not ready.

I'm staring at my computer screen and the pile of books and folders scattered around my office.

"How," I think, "will I ever get this all into one, cohesive book?"

I'm starting to feel wasps buzzing around my stomach, poking me with little stings of panic.

Sure, I said, when they asked me if I could write this history book. No sweat. I wrote a thesis, didn't I? I've written five novels, haven't I? I've written articles, haven't I?

Except...this isn't an article, or a thesis, or even a novel.

This is something completely different. I'm on shaky ground. Untested.

And it's made me freeze.

Suddenly, I'm longing to work on my novel, to read books, to do anything but that which I was so excited to do a few months ago.

Then there's the new job. More to learn. More to stash in my brain.

How, I think, do people do this? Work full-time and write full-time? Because essentially, that's what I'm doing.

But having just written all of this, I look back to the poster I made two years ago when I was just beginning my quest to use my MA in history by writing articles and trying to find a job in my field.


I'm whining.

Oh, it's too hard...oh, I can't do it...there's been too many changes in my life this year...it's just too much...blah, blah, blah.

A friend on Twitter told me, "You can conquer the job and the writing. You are woman, hear you roar."

And you know what? She's right. When I decided to quit whining last year, I got to work and did what needed to be done.

I sold six articles to my dream magazine.

I was approached to write a history book on a subject matter I specialize in.

And I found a job where I could use my history degree.

It's time to press the reset button. It's time to dig deep. It's time to reconnect with my passions and do the work.

Let me repeat: It's time to do the work.

No whining.

Onward.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Changes!

So!

Here's what's been going on in my life.

1) I headed home Thursday for the long Fourth of July weekend. It was my 20-year high school class reunion (hard to believe!) and I had a wonderful time catching up with everyone. About half of my classmates (we had 32 in our class) showed up. It's strange how you still have the same type of relationship with certain people as you did in high school.

While I was home, I also did more research for my POW book, attended a small-town rodeo, watched a few softball games (my brothers, sis-in-law, and niece and nephew were all playing), had good conversations with my grandmother, and yes, even managed to take a nap. I wasn't too happy that my RA decided to flare up. This time it attacked my knees and I looked pretty funny walking around - kind of like a drunk penguin.

2) After living with us for a few months, my mother found her own place and I now have my office back. This is indeed a good thing because it's time to start the actual writing of the POW book. When I write, I tend to make a huge mess, with paperwork and books and files scattered everywhere. I have plenty of room to do that in my office and I can just leave the mess there instead of seeing it every day in my living room. I'll be embarking on this next project very soon.

3) Perhaps the biggest change is this: I have a new day job. I've been with my current company for almost six years, but I was ready to move on, and I landed a job at the University of Nebraska. For privacy reasons, I won't mention where or exactly what I'll be doing, but just suffice to say that I will definitely be using that master's degree in history that I have! I'm very excited for this new challenge and can't wait to start.

4) Writing? Well, I'm still working on that novel - I'm in the editing stage. But with all the turmoil in life from job interviews and health problems and people moving in and out of my house (my stepson is living with us now), it's been a struggle to get anything worthwhile done on that front! I keep trying to sneak it in as much as possible.

What's new with you?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hiatus

I'm still here, but the blog has been strangely silent for awhile. It's not that I don't have things going on in my life - I do. Far too many things on some days.

For now, I'm taking a hiatus from blogging. In fact, I'm going to try stepping back a little further from social media and focus on my writing for awhile.

How successful I'll be is anyone's guess.

I think I'll follow Nora's advice, though.


See you on the flip side...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Totally Random, Completely Awesome Picture

My cat's name is Kathryn. When we got her at the shelter some four years ago, her name was Sassy Mama. My daughter and I did not feel that this was a dignified name for her, so we renamed her in honor of Catherine the Great - only spelled differently.

However, the extra pounds she has put on has made grooming herself a decidedly inelegant and undignified chore.

And here's the evidence:


I feel like she was auditioning for the can-can or some naughty cat movie!

In Other News...

Hubby graduates from college this weekend with a degree in auto body. And he already has a job waiting for him. Can you say two paychecks? Woo hoo! The past three years have been tough, but we did it!

It's also my birthday on Saturday, and Father's Day on Sunday.

We're having a get-together on Saturday to celebrate all three occasions. I plan to eat, drink (soda!) and be merry.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Life Chaotic? Write Anyway

Life has been full of changes lately. This isn't a bad thing because really, life is change.

Trying to write when life is chaotic like this isn't easy. But I think it's necessary in order for us, as creative people, to really process the chaos around us.

I ran across this quote today and I think it makes perfect sense:


So much sense, in fact, that I think I'll have it tattooed on my arm.

Just kidding.

When life is chaotic, writing is my escape. I just need to learn how to refuse to give in to the excuse of chaos and focus on the writing instead.

And there's no better time to do that than right now.








Thursday, May 30, 2013

Snoopy's Writing Life

I know exactly how Snoopy feels. I have several abandoned files on my computer of stories started and never finished.

You?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Days Like This...

First, I want to clarify something. This post is about my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. It's not a "poor me" post. I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm really not. My blog is just a way to document and deal with what I'm going through, whether that's my health or my writing or what-have-you. I don't view these posts as complaining, per se, but as a way to somehow help other people. How, you may ask? Well, if I'm going through it, chances are good that someone else is, too. And believe me when I say, it's important to know you're not alone in dealing with things.

So. With that out of the way, let's continue...

The weather changed here. For Nebraska, this is not unusual. But we went from temps in the high 90s (we actually hit 100 degrees one day) to the mid 50s and 60s within the span of a week.

My body is rebelling. I am having a flare-up and I'm so exhausted that I can barely sit up straight. But I'm at work because I have precious little paid time off left, and also because staying busy can keep my mind off the pain and on the task at hand.

In other words, I'm distracting myself.

My ankles hurt. My hands hurt. My head hurts. And now I can add my knees to the list. That was a new one that came up at my last appointment with my rheumatologist. While overall I am doing better in managing my RA, these flare-ups can kick my tush big time.

On days like this, I tend to crave sweets. I'm not sure what the connection is, but I usually don't argue. I'll eat a little more than my three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate and maybe cheat a little bit in other ways, too. But I try to stick to my healthy eating as much as possible because let's face it - I don't need to make myself feel worse by downing bad-for-me food.

I've been distracting myself with Twitter, which I'm starting to like a bit more now that I'm getting the hang of it, but I still feel as though it's filled with too much promotional crap like, "Buy my book! Look at my first chapter! BUY MY BOOK!!!" That gets annoying after awhile. But I've been able to connect with some terrific people out there, including some major World War II historians and authors.

I've also been meandering through my novel's first chapter, trying to tweak it to my satisfaction since I'm in "revision mode." Being ruthless in cutting words and getting to the heart of what I'm trying to say is important at this point. Not easy, but important.

And it's at moments like these when I truly thank God for my writing. It's a welcome escape from the pain - my refuge. I honestly don't know what I'd do without it. In fact, this quote below represents how I feel about writing when I'm in the midst of dealing with the pain and cannot write at that precise moment (because of work or whatever). A warm glow spreads through me and blots out my misery.

So, on days like this, when the brain receptors are on overtime sending me pain signals from my feet and ankles and wrists, I close my eyes, take another bite of chocolate, and think about my fingers tapping across the keys...




It's Time

I've had this blog for over 10 years. But I'm finding that I go to it less and less. Maybe it's the death of blogging that broug...