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!

One Day at a Time

I've always tried to live with this mentality: One day at a time. Unfortunately, when I implement it, I fail spectacularly. But for this...