Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Never Forget

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

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

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

Here's one that particularly wrenches my heart:

Israel Alfred Gl├╝ck (1921 – 2007)

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

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

Never Again.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pure Joy

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

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

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

House Hunting Woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writing Companions

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

Here are my three writing companions:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

When Losing Sleep Is Worth It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was it worth it?

You bet it was.

Never give up.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy 2016!

I'm one of those people who thinks that you don't need a new year to make new changes. Each and every day offers you the opportunity to do that. Still, there's something about waving goodbye to an old year and welcoming a new one.

So, here's to a new year!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!