Ramblings

Everything Update 09/25/2018

Pardon my disappearing act for the last few months. There have been changes and slight upheavals in my life but things are starting to settle down.

Writing: I purchased another class from Holly Lisle. It’s called How to Write a Novel. I already know how to do this of course, but I bought the course anyway for a few reasons. First, I like trying other authors’ processes. I find myself picking up bits and pieces and making them my own. Every writer has a Frankenstein’s monster of a writing process. It’s how we learn and grow.

Second, I’m never more productive than when I’m doing a writing class. Since I accomplished very little this summer, I look forward to making up for it with the novel I’m working on through the class.

Third, I have a new novel idea, so it’s the perfect time to experiment with a different way of doing things.

Bonus reason: Holly Lisle uses lots of worksheets. I adore worksheets! Maybe it’s silly, but they work for me. I’m so scatter-brained these days and using her worksheets helps keep me on track. The downside is I go through a lot of paper and printer ink. This is an acceptable trade-off for getting my novels written.

Let’s talk about my new novel idea. It started a few months ago with the idea for a character. Actually, it goes all the way back to two summers ago when I plotted a story at the West Texas Writer’s Academy. I had written most of the novel before that class but something wasn’t working for me and I didn’t know what. So when I needed to pick a story to plot, I chose that one.

It was about a woman who worked with a ghost to save the world. The problem was the scope was too big. So I considered scaling it down to the duo saving a town. Great, onward and upward I thought. We had to discuss elements of the story in class and when it was my turn everyone seemed really interested. I was thrilled and knew I was on the right track. Comments and suggestions abounded. I wrote everything I heard down and started incorporating the more interesting ideas.

I was excited to have the story plotted at the end of the week and happy I took the class. Then I got home and tried to rewrite the story. There was one problem. I hated the story. It was a terrible idea for a story, but it was no longer MY idea. I was so enraptured with all the enthusiasm from others that I inadvertently changed the story idea into Their story.

I’m still glad I took the class but I regret getting lost in what other writers wanted. That novel, all 60,000 word written, is a bust. Then a few months ago, I ‘new’ idea struck me. As I wrote down my thoughts I realized there were a lot of elements from the original ghost story. At first, I thought I was reworking it, then realized I was only drawing inspiration from it.

This new idea inspires my muse more than the other ever did! Since I pulled strings from what I called The Ghost War, what I wrote before was not wasted. I’ll call it a practice novel, the kind you write and realize you need to trash it. It’s not my first novel but it still taught me a lot. The most important lesson is to write for myself, and not what other author’s think I should. Their ideas were great, but not for my style.

The Ghost War turned into something bordering on romance, which is not what I do. I’ve thought about trying my hand at other genres and if I ever decide to do something more paranormal romance then I have that story on my hard drive. And my external drive. And a thumb drive. And Dropbox and Google drive, lol.

So, back to my new story idea. I spend the summer working on characters and major plot points. What I came up with is a series, hopefully. I’ll write the first book and see. At this point, what I thought would be book one and book two merged and made a better, fuller story. I’ll keep you all updated as I go along.

Writing Goals: Above I mentioned how I’m more productive while doing writing classes. If things go the way they did with other courses, my muse won’t be happy unless I’m working on several things at once. This led me to make some goals.

  1. Finish the class. This should be obvious but I have a few class I started but never finished. It wasn’t laziness or fear. The problem was I wasn’t ready for the particular classes. For example, I have one called How to Write a Series. At the time, I wasn’t prepared to work on my middle-grade series (stupid muse) and I didn’t have a solid adult series idea. I do now but I’m going to do the new class first. I could be wrong about the idea’s potential and I’d rather learn that before I get into the series class.
  2. Flash fiction. I’ve written around one hundred pieces of flash fiction. Most were written in the same year. Burn-out stopped me in my tracks. Also, back pain, but that’s another story. Now, I think I’m ready to try again. Most of my time will be taken up by my novel, but when I get tired of it or need to shift focus a bit I can switch to flash. I might even use the shorter stories as a morning warm up. Even if they suck I’ll have something to work with later!
  3. Blog. I want to get back into the habit of posting regularly. Some writers get distracted by blogging. For those, it’s either posts or fiction. Not me. I stay more on track if I’m doing both. Like switching to flash fiction, blogging is a small break from the obsession of novel writing. It saves me from crashing and burning on a story.

Medical: Pain sucks. Long-term pain sucks more. However, as sad as it is, chronic pain forces one to adapt. You simply get used to the pain. It doesn’t hurt less, but it becomes part of your life. If you’re smart, you’ll get on with life instead of feeling so sorry for yourself that you end up doing nothing (guilty).

I’m tired of letting my back pain decide everything I do and don’t do. I’m still not going to ride a roller coaster but I am going to suck it up and write more often!

For a while, I wasn’t going to the gym regularly but I’m getting back on track. This will help my pain level a lot, which translates to helping my ability to write more often. Plus the bonus energy levels following a workout. I always try to get some writing in during that time.

Changes and Upheaval: I had a kid move out! My four offspring range in age from 18 (barely) to 24. My twenty-one-year-old daughter was the first to go. It was a strange, upsetting, and cool time. I was so happy for her but sad to see her go. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until weeks later. I miss her like crazy but still get to see her semi-often. I’m over the sad part. Now I’m starting to see how our household changed.

Alyssa, if you read this, sorry but I’m going to rat you out.

The biggest change is the amount of toilet paper in the house! I went to Sam’s and bought a huge pack and when I got home I went to put some in the hall linen closet. For the first time, ever, there was another big pack, unopened, and some left from another. I wish there was a video of my shocked reaction. Who knew she was the one who used the most. I bet her siblings knew, but I didn’t.

Another change or lack thereof was the amount of food in the pantry and fridge. There were fewer items in the deli drawer but I couldn’t see a difference in the pantry. That kid adored ramen and chicken noodle soup.

My living room is cleaner. She always left piles of her stuff everywhere. Not all her junk has been moved yet but at least the stacks are smaller.

The garage is the biggest change. Somehow after being given a small corner to do art, Alyssa managed to take over most of one side of the garage. She would have taken more but I park in there and we keep the lawn stuff on ‘her’ side. As I mentioned, she hasn’t moved it all but I can see the floor! Since she got her packrat tendencies from her mother, I’m not mad about the massive amount of things she has but I’ll be glad when she finally gives me room to store my equally large around of stuff, lol. I have a feeling many shelves are in my future.

The next change hasn’t occurred but soon will. My oldest plans to move out. I don’t know when, but he put in an application for an apartment on Friday. They told him it would take several business days to hear back. I’m happy for him but I’m positive I’ll be sad too. He’s the type to only visit when he feels guilty that he hasn’t in a while. He loves his family but he desperately needs a space of his own. He’ll finally not have to share a room with his brother.

One last soon to happen upheaval: My youngest child, Cairie, is a senior. She will attend college after she graduates and her plan was to live at home until she finishes. However, my older daughter offered to let her sister move in with her in May. Since my baby is the most independent of the kids, this appeals to her. Alyssa even told Cairie she wouldn’t have to pay rent until they upgraded to a two bedroom, and offered up the bedroom so they would have separate spaces. What 18-year-old would turn that down?

Calling all of this upheaval may seem to be an exaggeration but you have to understand how much of a creature of habit I am. And they are my babies!

Nanowrimo: I’m going to participate this year. Not only that, I’m going to drag others in with me. There is a group of people who have felt left out of the group due to some choices by previous leadership. There are new leaders this year and they know the problems and want to fix them. I offered my assistance and together we’re going to get those people back in and feeling part of the family.

I’m talking about the people over 30. The last leader worked so hard to get college kids involved that the older ones of us got pushed aside and forgotten. This wasn’t on purpose but still happened. Since most of the people who felt left out feel comfortable with me, I’m going to use that to get them going to events. If I go, they will know at least one person who will talk to them so they’ll do it. That means I’ll be going to almost every event and most of my attention will be on the others. I probably won’t ‘win’ this year but I’m thinking long-term for all of us.

The young people won’t be neglected but I left that in one of the ‘ML’s’ hands. I’ll have enough on my hands trying to convince twenty or so people to come back to Nanowrimo. (Jesse, that mean’s you too!).

It took me about 30  minutes to write this post and it’s over 2000 words. If I can do that, then I can write 1500 words a day (some days) for Nanowrimo. I might not get the 50,000 but I bet I can get half! That’s a hell of accomplishment too.

If this post seems scattered, with many errors, then just know you are seeing a glimpse of my brain. Grammarly certainly doesn’t like the way I wrote it! I’ll post more updates soon.

My Writing Journey, Part 2

To read Part 1 click here.

Ah, the teenage years. What a beautiful, crazy, terrible nightmare they were. I could tell a million stories from that time, but I’ll stick to the writing-related stuff for the sake of brevity.

I didn’t often write back then. Like most teens, I was crippled with self-doubt and unexplained fears. How on earth did we all survive blushing almost daily? It was during these formative years that I had a lot of serious upheavals and changes.

When I was thirteen, my parents divorced. This was both painful and welcome. They hadn’t gotten along for years, so we all knew it was necessary. The hard part had to do with being a daddy’s girl. There was a time I would have done anything to please my father, but I was learning that he was human and I didn’t like it.

He was an alcoholic, which I barely understood and probably affected me the least of all of my family since I was the youngest and his favorite. In the days leading up to my mom leaving him, I finally saw some uncomfortable truth. My dad was a high functioning alcoholic, as in he came home, drank a lot of beer and you couldn’t see much change. However, he was an a-hole when he was really drunk, but like most heavy drinkers, it was even worse when he wasn’t drinking.

I need to clarify that I was the one who couldn’t see much change when dad drank. I was young, dumb, and oblivious. My mother and brothers definitely weren’t in the dark. In a way, this lack of knowledge made it harder when I saw the truth.

Anyway, I won’t go into too many details, but the night we left, my dad did the unforgivable. He slapped my mother. I may have been a daddy’s girl, but no one touches my mother. Even worse, in my barely teenaged mind, it was my fault. He was drunk and pissed off because of something I did that my mother punished me for.

I don’t remember what stupid crap I’d pulled, but I do remember I deserved to be in trouble. All she did was ground me, but I was his baby, and I don’t know if he assumed I hadn’t done anything or if he thought she was too harsh. It doesn’t matter, he had no right to do what he did. Hell, he didn’t have the right to be yelling at her for it.

The words and images are fuzzy for me except the look on his face when I screamed at him. The shock and betrayal in his expression are still clear in my mind. Sitting here, writing this I keep thinking ‘he felt betrayed, what about us?’

My mom was smart enough to use the interruption to get the hell out of there. She grabbed me and my older brother and took us to her sister’s house. She filed for divorce soon after.

I need to backtrack a moment. My dad was a good man, once. He treated me like a princess and loved me with everything he had. He treated my mother well too, in the beginning. He didn’t treat my brothers the same, but I don’t know if that was the beer or just how he was.

Alcoholism messes people up, and he’d been that way for most of his adult life. Part of me believes if he’d ever completely given up beer, he might have become the man he should have been. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Once they split up, I picked up a pen again. I wrote about my feelings and then tore up the paper into confetti, every time. It helped. Life settled into a routine for a while. Then my mom started dating someone.

I was happy for her until I met him. His name was David, and I hated him, instantly. This was no teenager issue, though my mom thought it was. No, I got a bad feeling from him. I’d only gotten this feeling with one other person, and it turned out my gut was right that time. So, in all my experience and wisdom I told my mom how uncomfortable he made me. She produced the knowing smile adolescents everywhere hate and kept doing what she was doing.

Everyone assumed I would hate the first guy she dated because he wasn’t my dad. HA! Little did they know my ‘bad feeling’ was never wrong. The guy turned out to be a pig, which is the nicest thing I can say about the man. As a side note, years later, I ran into this man at the local mall, where I worked (I was 18 or 19). He told me how much I looked like my mother, how he missed her, and then hit on me! GROSS!

I occasionally pick on my mother for not listening to me, but my choice in men was much worse for a few years so I keep it to a minimum.

Not long after dumping the jerk, she met my future step-dad. I liked him right away. He was weird as hell, had a dry sense of humor, and he adored mom. No bad feelings cropped up, so I was happy for her. They got married in October 1988, and we moved from our tiny little town to the bigger city ten miles away.

It might as well have been a hundred miles. I wasn’t sad to move, but I was sad to leave my friends. I figured we still see each other often, but it didn’t take long for everyone to move on. I loved and hated my new school. There were so many people! Unfortunately, some were little assholes. Some were amazing. I found the weird tribe and joined. I settled in and decided it could have been worse, then it was.

At the end of December, fifteen days after I turned 15, my dad died in a car accident. He was driving through New Mexico, on he way to El Paso to visit his parents. My brother and I were supposed to be with him, but we didn’t go. He was mad at both my brothers for something stupid and I was mad at him. On Christmas Eve, he yelled at me and told me I ruined Christmas because I defended my siblings. It was all so unimportant and silly, but we didn’t want to be around him when he was a jerk.

As you can imagine, I was a wreck. Grief and guilt consumed me. My relationship with my middle brother fell apart. He already resented me because I was dad’s favorite and was treated differently. Now that our father was gone, there was only me left to take the blame. My mother hardly knew what to do with me.

The years that followed are particularly painful for me, and I don’t want to rehash everything. I didn’t get arrested or do a bunch of drugs or anything like that, but there are some things I’ll never talk about again. I will say that I wrote more during this time than I ever had. I got angry at my mother often back then. She was very non-confrontational, and I am the opposite. It made me so mad when she wouldn’t fight! So I wrote her letters. I wasn’t capable calmly telling her how I felt and she wouldn’t let me yell it, so it was my only option.

Those letters, which she still has, changed my world. You wouldn’t believe how many drafts of each one I wrote. I cared about how well they were written. It bothered me to misspell something or if my grammar was off. I realized how much words mattered. I also learned that I could truly express myself with a pen.

Fear still ruled, but I’d taken steps in the right direction. Years later my mother told me she thought I should write after reading those letters because they were well written.

Remember when I used the word brevity at the beginning of this post? If you know me, I figured there would be some eye-rolls, well deserved.

Certainly, I wrote more than intended but sometimes the words have to come out. Thank you for sticking with me. In part 3, I’ll cover my failed marriages and bad choice in men. Those were the years that almost broke me and nearly killed my love of writing.


 

 

Yearly Goal Post

Every year I write a post about my goals. I don’t like to make resolutions because those fail. I can say I want to eat better, and I might for a short time, but it won’t last. There will always be chicken strips in the world!

I could state I will work out more. I probably will do this, but it won’t be because I claimed I would on January 1st. I’ll do it for my health and because it helps me deal with back pain.

What I will say is I want to write more this year. I intend to; it is my primary goal. This is not a resolution; it’s what I’ll do.

Generally, in one of these posts, I make a long list of writerly goals. Not this year. There are too many roadblocks in my life to plan for anything too specific. So I’m sticking with writing more than I did last year.

I don’t want to be disappointed by too many bullet points like I was last year. However, if I’m lucky, motivated, dedicated, and able, then I will write many short stories, a novel or two and a lot of blog posts.

I’m not against other people making resolutions, but they don’t work for me. If you’re making some, I hope they work for you.

Sidenote: I’m working on a suspense novel! I started it years ago but put it aside to work on fantasy. It’s time for a change, so I picked it back up. I replotted it, with very few changes. Now I’m trying to fill in holes in the middle before I sit down and write the thing. Wish me motivation!

 

My Writing Journey, Part 1

One doesn’t choose to be a writer, it’s in you, but you do have to decide to write. Being a writer is part of me, it always was, but I didn’t always choose to do anything active about it. The road to writing regularly was bumpy, often blocked, detoured, sabotaged, scary, and sometimes impossible.

Even now, as in the last few months, there are times when I write next to nothing. I aim to change that, starting with this post. There are many reasons why I’ve been in what I call a ‘writer’s funk,’ but I’ll get into that in a later post.

For now, I’m going to share with you all how I got to where I am today. I called this post Part 1 because it will take several to get it all out. I don’t know how many but I would rather do this in sections than give you with a ten thousand word post.

It all began when I was a child. I’d like to say I always wrote. I wish I had hundreds of journals worth of childish thoughts and stories, but I didn’t write back then. I was capable of it, but things more powerful than the urge to write ruled my life. Fear and shame. Not fear of life or a person, just fear of baring my soul and shame when I did and was rejected. I tried several times, with diaries. After writing a few lines, I would seize up and put them away.

Opening up still fills me with dread. There was no significant event that started it. It was a mix of small childhood traumas that stifled me so much.

I was one of those kids who liked to make crazy things up. Fantastical stories with me as the star. A few times I tried to share these with friends and family.  My parents didn’t actively discourage me, but with three kids and jobs, they didn’t have time to ‘indulge’ me.

My friends were tolerant but more heavily grounded than me, so not particularly interested. All the girls my age were more interested in love stories, and the boys just wanted to watch cartoons and ride bikes. While I was imagining having a superpower or flying on a dragon, the other kids were busy being normal.

One of my brothers, who shall stay unnamed, but it’s the one I don’t get along with, had a different reaction. He made fun of me. Then his friends joined in. I won’t go into details except to say he liked upsetting me and succeed often. I valued his opinion above all others and he used that mercilessly. It wasn’t too long before I started keeping my stories to myself, even from the people who didn’t mock me.

I didn’t even want to write them down. Hence the started yet never finished diaries. What if someone read them? I would have died before letting anything see how weird I was. Now, all these years later, I don’t know what it was those boys said that made me feel so much shame, I only know the result.

Watching other girls writing their secret thoughts made me so jealous I could hardly stand it. I didn’t care what they wrote, but I wished to be like them. I wanted to be as brave as I thought they were.

I still made stuff up regularly, anytime I had a quiet moment. I kept it all to myself, for years. It took my mom pissing me off when I was a teenager so bad that I wrote her a letter to express my feelings before anything changed. That’s a story for next time.

As I stated above, I don’t know how many posts it will take me to tell my writing journey. I’m winging this one. Some posts may be short, others longer. There is also no schedule for when I’ll write them. I’m in the process of getting back to writing regularly so I hope to be very busy soon.

In my next post I’ll tell you all about how I started to embrace my weird and took a step closer, and many steps back from active writing.

Did any of you guys have problems with other people judging your creativity as a child? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.


Roadblocks & Annoyances

My muse has been waking up, so it was no surprise when my body starting betraying me again. It seems like every time I get close to being myself again after all these back problems and medication adjusting, something pops up that could potentially stop me from writing.

This time it is my sensitivity to salicylates. It’s been quite some time since I had my first major allergic reaction and I’ve done many things to avoid a repeat performance of Hellboy (this was my entire body turning bright red after drinking a smoothie containing blackberries and blueberries). I really thought I had this stuff under control, but I learned twice in the last week how wrong I was.

Okay, confession time. I did learn tea was very high in salicylates, but at the time of my first reaction, I didn’t know. So I kept drinking it, every day. As time went on, I reacted to more things. The doctor had warned me of this, and while I listened to her, I unwisely decided to keep enjoying the things I loved until my body told me I was done.

Unfortunately, when I react to one thing, there is a domino effect. There are three different types of salicylate. I wasn’t reacting to the one that includes mint and menthol, so I didn’t cut either out. I loved my mints and cough drops, they acted as substitutes when I stopped smoking years ago. Then came the fateful day when my body rejected both. It was awful! They caused sores in my mouth, even under my tongue!

Once that happened I reacted to certain shampoos and cosmetics. I had already cleaned out the ones with ‘benzyl salicylate’ on their label, but I left the ones containing aloe. Mistake!

And I still drank tea. Even when there were signs it was doing bad things to me, I kept drinking it. Then my body, which is clearly smarter than me, decided it for me. I reacted, and it wasn’t fun. Shortly after I reacted to a face cleaner, then yesterday I an unexpected enemy reared it’s lovely, delicious, terrible head — paprika. I ate a grilled chicken salad. The chicken was seasoned with salt, pepper (another salicylate), garlic, onion powder, and paprika. Stupid me, I have looked at the lists of foods to avoid a hundred times and simply never noticed the spices. It’s more accurate to say I ignored it.

My punishment was to turn into Hellboy again. Honestly, I’m lucky I haven’t had any breathing issues, though the doctor says it will come to that.

There are a few more items in the house I need to figure out replacements for. Did I mention I can’t have mint? I have yet to discover a toothpaste that is for sensitive teeth but doesn’t contain mint. I guess I should cut out regular pepper too, ugh!

I had to learn all the terms used by various companies that mean salicylates without actually using the word.  Most sunscreens have the evil in them, but the label says homosalate or octisalate. Some of the ones for sensitive skin don’t have those two, but they have aloe. I found two I can use, which are more expensive but safe is good.

I’m discovering more and more things I have to avoid, but I’m paying more attention now. I hate giving up things I love (no more chicken strips from restaurants), but it’s time to give in. I don’t only turn red when I use things I shouldn’t, I also feel really awful. Lie down and stare at the ceiling awful. This stops me from writing, and I can’t allow it any longer.

Back pain and surgeries have already been roadblocks to writing, I can’t let my own bad choices also stop me too.

Yesterday was the first day with no tea. I hated it, but I survived. Today will be the same. The two pieces of chicken meant for my salads will be given to my offspring, and I’ll find something plain to eat. I’ll pout a lot and curse the unfairness of it all, but I know it’s all worth it.

Most importantly, I’ll write.

Everything Update 04/20/2017

Someone once asked why I call this my Everything Update. I think the real question was why do I update everything all at once. The answer is in the name of my blog: Writerish Ramblings. I do tend to ramble on. I’m so full of words that I can’t contain them all inside my head, so I let them out on paper, on the screen, and in person, I never shut up (unless I’m talking to a stranger).

If I did separate updates for each of the items in this post, then I would overload everyone. So I put it all here.

The other reason is pain. I can’t sit at the computer for as long as I want to, so it’s easier for me to update on everything in one post. What you don’t see is I don’t always type it up in one sitting.

So, on to the updating.

Writing: I purchased an online course about writing a series. I know how to write, but there are different rules for series, as well as many different types of series. Each kind has its own set of dictates. I figure I will learn something and add to my writing toolbox and it’s worth it to me. I also bought a book that I would call a refresher.

My reasoning on these items is I have not been writing. No work on my trilogy, no short stories, no new ideas (besides a few jotted notes).

Part of my problem is pain medication. I had to choose between a nightmare surgery or pills, so I chose pills. I hate it, but I’m doing what I can to put off the inevitable for as long as possible.

So the meds make me a little flighty and a lot sleepy. Since I’ll be on them for at least a couple of months, I need to do something to fight through it. Following instructions in a class or book seems to be my best choice for keeping my muse awake.

Besides, why wouldn’t I want to keep learning, and trying new techniques? Talent/skills can stagnate if you don’t take the time to help them grow.

I also plan to use writing prompts I normally ignore. I like prompts for writing short stories, but I never do the ones that want you to answer questions about your life. For example, Why do you want to write? Or Where do you see yourself in ten years? Maybe even Describe your hometown.

Fiction won’t come out of using these but words will. Any writing leads to more writing. I shouldn’t be ignoring them. An essay using the prompt: Why do you want to be a writer led me to win a scholarship to the West Texas Writer’s Academy. Clearly, any prompt has value!

So I’ll use them and I’ll probably post some of the results of my experiment.

Medical: BLAH! I had an injection for pain relief, but it didn’t really work. They added something to dissolve some scar tissue at the same time. I don’t know how long it takes to work, but at this point, there isn’t much difference. I’m sure it is doing something, but at this level of pain, it’s hard to appreciate a small change.

Two days ago I must have overdone it at the gym because the pain was so bad that I spent most of the day in bed. It was much the same the next day. So I skipped working out yesterday, and I’m much better now. On the upside, I watched the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (over two days) with no writer’s guilt. I also analyzed the hell out of all three movies. Everything from dialog to structure. I almost took notes, but it’s hard to write anything when lying down.

I really enjoy those movies, but I found myself laughing at some of the speeches and Eowyn’s face when she was shocked, those eyes!

Everything else: I had to rearrange my work space. I have an L-shaped desk, and where I had, it wasn’t causing me problems. One of the desks was in the middle of the room. The space was too tight, and I was getting into my chair in a way that hurt a lot. Now, that desk is against a wall. The area is open and I’m better off.

My dogs love it because they can’t sprawl out but still be close to me. I miss my ‘nest’ but overall, I like this arrangement better.

I also moved all my books around. Every time I can’t do things because of pain, I want to do all the things! So I do some of the things even though it’s going to hurt. A rebellious nature sucks when you’re rebelling against your own body and it fights back!

I’ll try to post more often. I’ve been slacking but I’m trying to push through all these roadblocks. That’s all for now.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Disappointing/Potentially Dangerous Morning Due To My Own Bad Choices

As an adult, I have the right to make terrible decisions, right? My most recent mess up has to do with Pop Tarts, and I’m ticked off about it. Not long ago I made a choice to start eating a cherry one every morning. Not the healthiest thing, but it was quick, easy, and kept my blood sugar mostly normal.

Besides eating mostly sugar for breakfast, my biggest mistake was assuming something as cheap and bad for you as Pop Tarts are, there couldn’t be real fruit in them. I was spectacularly wrong!

There are dried cherries, and oddly, dried apples in them. Guess who is allergic to berries and most other fruits? Actually, it’s more that I’m overly sensitive to something in a lot of foods – salicylates. I’ve always had issues with them, but until several months ago, when I had a severe reaction to some berries, it wasn’t too much of an issue. I’ve never cared for most fruit, so I rarely had any, except in Pop Tarts.

I learned from my doctor that my sensitivity would grow worse once I had the bad reaction. The problem is salicylates are in so many foods. To break it down a bit, everyone is sensitive to them, as they are basically poison. As we grow and try new things, our bodies build up a tolerance, allowing us to eat them. How else do you think you can eat tomatoes, which are nightshades – poison? People like me are more sensitive to them and can’t build as strong a tolerance, so are likely to have an allergic reaction eventually.

Have you seen Hellboy? Imagine a female version, and you’ll get a good mental image of what I looked like when I reacted to a smoothie containing blackberries and blueberries. I’d avoided these my whole life until that day, apparently for a good reason. My entire body turned bright red, and I felt terrible. I probably should have gone to the hospital, but I took a Benadryl and waited.

So, back to the cherry Pop Tarts. As usual, I ate one today. I was cutting potatoes for a stew I was going to throw together in the slow-cooker. I ended up eating pretty slow, in between potatoes. It took about fifteen minutes to cut the veggies and get everything in the pot. Then I went to my bedroom to change into my gym clothes. On the way, my bottom lip started feeling strange.

It was a tingling that was almost a burning sensation. It was the same with a couple of my fingers. Curse words flooded my thoughts because I recognized the feeling. I was reacting to something. I panicked a little at first because it could only be the cheap pastry or the tea I was drinking with it. I looked at my cup of tea and realized I’d only taken a few small drinks. It had to be the damn Pop Tart!

Claritin is part of my morning pill routine so I didn’t take a Benadryl. All I could do was finish getting ready and take my kid to school. I almost didn’t go to the gym but decided I would because I didn’t really feel bad, the burning, which had moved into my entire chin, wouldn’t stop me from working out. When I got to the gym I checked my face and the bottom half was definitely red. I worried I looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy but I sucked it up and got on the elliptical. The allergy stuff wasn’t going to kick in for at least two more hours so I kept my head down and made as little eye contact as possible. Actually, I do that every time I go to the gym so I wasn’t acting out of the ordinary, haha.

After my workout, I went to the grocery store and picked up something different for breakfast. I came home and looked at the ingredients on the food that betrayed me, and sure enough, it had real fruit. I’m an idiot for not checking this before I started eating them every day, which was two months ago. I can only guess how I was able to eat them this long. With the fruits in dried form, maybe it takes longer to get to me?

At least this will force me to eat something healthy in the morning. I should have been all along. The truth is, I’m a creature of habit. Buying a box of Pop Tarts was an impulse and then quickly became a habit. Plus, I LIKE them. Whatever I choose to eat for breakfast always becomes an everyday thing. I don’t have time in the morning to think too much about food. I certainly don’t have enough time to eat anything that takes a lot of prep.

Now, the Claritin is doing its job. My face isn’t red, and my bottom lip and chin aren’t swollen or burning anymore. I still feel it a bit in my fingers, but it will go away soon. If it doesn’t, I guess it will be doctor time.

The really sad part for me is my tea. I drink a cup every day while I eat breakfast. For all I know, it contributed to what happened. Tea is high in salicylates. I have been drinking it anyway because I did build up a tolerance. I knew eventually it would probably betray me too but I was hoping it would take a long time. Giving up my daily caffeine is terrifying! I may have to anyway.

I hope this time I’ve learned my lesson!

 

Writers Are Mean…

All writers are mean. We are abusive, bullying, nasty, horrible people. We are overly critical, judgy, and our standards are too high. We cause crying, anger, yelling, sadness, depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Writers do and are all these things, to ourselves, often.

Therefore, why on earth should we allow other writers to do the same to us? Too many times I’ve seen a writer trying to bring another one down. In most cases the perpetrator is doing so to make themselves feel better – superior. You know what makes me feel good when reading another writer’s work? Telling them the good things I see.

I’m more than happy to critique something when requested but generally most writers when they put themselves out for the world to see, i.e. a short story on their blog, or a Facebook post, etc, need encouragement.

Personally, I know sometimes I need the motivational push or someone to tell me it’s not terrible, or something else positive. So I have to assume other writers need the same.

Why can’t we hold each other up and be supportive instead of mean and judgemental? There are a few people I know who like to tear others down and it is clearly based on a lack of confidence on their part. Maybe no one helped them or encouraged them early in their career. I know that even when I or other writers in my community try now, these people don’t notice.

What if they were told the good stuff when they first started out? Would they feel the need to be crappy to other writers today? Maybe so, but also, maybe not.

Think about this. If you’re only surrounded by harsh comments, negativity, unwarranted criticism, and unfavorable comparisons for years, you’re probably going to be a pretty miserable human right? Since, as a writer, you’re going to do this to yourself and be unable to escape it, wouldn’t it be great if someone, preferably many someones, was there telling you what you did right? Saying how you are great with dialog or description, or how your writing voice is so clear. Maybe just telling you they love your stories.

Now what if it were other writers telling you the good stuff? As writers we can’t help it, we value what other writers say over everyone else. I mean, sure, your mom, or spouse, or best friend can say every word you write is perfection but you know they love you and that makes their credibility a little shaky (even if they are correct). When someone else who practices your craft gives you positive feedback, WHAM, it hits you in the ego in the best sort of way. Little tendrils of goodness invade your subconscious…maybe I’m not the worst writer on the planet…yeah, that is a damn good sentence…perhaps I can do this, etc.

I believe, as a writer, I have several jobs to do.

1: Write, as often as I can.

1.5: Finish what I start writing.

2: Always try to improve my craft.

3. Help other writers as much as possible.

The third one is very important to me. When I first started writing I was alone in it. One person encouraged me but only as a hobby. I was a stay at home mom with a husband who thought I should never do anything for me. My job was to be a mom and nothing else. Throughout the years I was actively discouraged and ignored when it came to writing. Everything from being told my writing sucked to being accused of being irresponsible for even trying. Once I was divorced and then married again I was the victim of subtle undermining. My confidence was shot and my desire to write was nil.

Then one day I realized something. My exes were A-holes who played on my real issue with writing: fear. I always worried I wasn’t good enough at it, that I was wasting time only to fail. I feared succeeding as much as failing. I was afraid of what others though or might think.

So I took the first steps toward writing regularly. Eventually I married a man who actually wants me to write. I found other writers in my community, most of which were encouraging and welcoming. The ones who aren’t, well, they can’t touch me after the stuff I heard from the exes.

Being around others like me changed everything. Now I write all the time. I have more confidence in what I do and I’m constantly improving.

When I meet new writers, or people trying to get back into it, with fear in their eyes, everything I went through comes back to me. So I step up and try to make them feel welcome. I share my story when needed and always have something positive to say about their work. I do the same for people who are actively writing. All I want is to be as supportive as I can. No one should have to feel bad about writing.

There will always be the negative writers around so I hope my attitude and others who think the same help to balance out the bad things we all have to hear. It takes so little effort to do these little things to help others and everyone benefits.

I’ll save my mean writer side for myself. Speaking of, after rereading this I spotted tons of complicated or shaky sentences and am fighting the urge to fix them. See? I don’t need anyone else to tell me I suck. Maybe someday I’ll even stop listening to myself.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to encourage at least one writer this week. I hope this message doesn’t self destruct!


Photo by Ryan McGuire

Why All Adults Should Strive To Be Someone A Child Can Trust

I had an eventful weekend. It didn’t start that way. On Friday I wasn’t feeling very good so I stayed home and spent all day alternating between sitting in my desk chair for 20 minutes and laying down for a while. I couldn’t figure out if I was having massive allergy issues or if I was sick. I erred on the side of caution by taking it easy.

On Saturday I was still a little sluggish but better so I guess it was allergies. I decided to stay home again just in case. I was so bored! I tried for a while to plan my new novel but I was unsuccessful. I did manage to cook dinner, clean off my bathroom counter, and  some dusting.

My daughter planned to have a friend, who I’ll call “M,” come over to spend the night. It was her best friend, who is practically a part of the family, so even though I didn’t feel good I didn’t mind.

At some point in the evening my daughter comes into my room alone looking nervous. I need to insert some back story here. M has an awful, controlling boyfriend. This guy made her delete all her social media accounts except Facebook and only allowed her to use it if he had the password. He wouldn’t let her see her friends often and cheated constantly. I was terrified it would get worse.

So back to that night, it took her a while, but eventually my kid started talking. She said M’s boyfriend had hit M, multiple times. For a few moments I couldn’t speak. I’ve been pretty angry many times in my life, I admit to a hot temper. But I’ve never felt anger like I did in that moment.

The first thing I asked was if M knew she was telling me, she did. I asked a few questions but quickly realized I needed to be asking M. I had my daughter go get her. She came in with her head down and sat on the end of my bed facing me. This kid looked like she was prepared to get in trouble! My heart broke.

I asked a lot of questions, like how many times, what else did he do, how long, etc. She was hesitant but once she started answering the floodgates opened. It took every bit of self-control I had in me to not demand we go to her mom and call the cops NOW. The problem was she had already said she didn’t want him to go to jail, she wanted him to get help. I also realized if she was ready to tell her mother she wouldn’t have come to me first.

So I controlled my impulse and gently steered her in the direction I thought she should go. I felt, and still feel guilty about it. I felt like I manipulated her and she’d had enough of that crap.

Anyway, she told stories of how when she tried to leave the guy he would cry and beg or if that didn’t work he would hit her. One day he punched her in the stomach repeatedly and hurt her hand when she tried to block him. I could go on and on at what this little bastard did but it’s getting me all worked up again so I’ll stop. Suffice it to say, he was abusive, in all the ways.

As the conversation continued I was searching for ways to get through to her and finally found the two triggers. First I said, “I bet you haven’t felt like yourself in a long time.” She was shocked and agreed. Then I asked her what she would want to happen if it was my daughter who’d been abused. It was a lightbulb moment. She looked at my daughter, then for the first time met my eyes. “I would want you to go to the cops.”

She agreed going to the police was the right thing to do but was nervous at the idea of facing him in court. I couldn’t advise her. She’s 15, old enough to be questioned in court, but maybe young enough that she can’t be forced. I just told her to tell the police how she felt about it. Did I mention the boyfriend is 18?

Then came the hardest part of all. I had to talk her into telling her mother. She didn’t want to but knew she should. She said she would tell her in the morning. I said “I think you should tell her tonight.”

She balked. I offered to do the talking and she agreed. As guilty as I feel for pushing her to tell her mom, I know in the back of her mind it’s what she wanted. So the three of us got in the car and drove to her house. On the way there she said she felt guilty. I told her it was okay to feel that way as no one can turn off feelings. She seemed relieved to hear it.

It was hard to tell her mother but I imagine it was easier for me than it would have been for M. Obviously the woman was very upset but it went as well as it could have. She said the best thing she could have at one point. When she asked M why she hadn’t come to her, M said she was afraid to tell an adult and she’d only barely told my daughter that night. Her mom said “I understand but it was telling an adult that is going to get you the help you need.” It was another lightbulb moment for M. I wanted to fist pump at the mom!

We went back to my house and on the way I asked M if she felt relieved. She said she did.

I haven’t heard anything yet about what they have done. I know M’s mom planned to go up the school and I hope she went to the police. M didn’t go to school today because she didn’t want to face the boyfriend. I do know he already knows she told her mom about him thanks to her idiotic sister telling him.

The night she told me all this I managed to get her to change her password on Facebook. While she was at my house he logged onto her account, pretended to be her, and asked both my daughters what ‘she’ should do about him.

We talked about ways to avoid this guy and to never be alone in the halls.  I also told her I would be more than happy to drive her to and from school because she normally rides a bike. It’s the only time she’ll be alone.

I’m worried about what’s she’s about to go through but I’m so happy she’s took steps to escape the situation. I’ve always been the ‘understanding’ mom of my daughter’s friend group. So thankfully she trusted me enough to tell me, the poor kid has been so scared and confused for so long.

The rest of the weekend was taken up by writing group stuff and Batman vs. Superman ultimate edition. I am still not feeling great but I was able to get out of the house today to work on planning my novel for Nanowrimo.

I’m a little distracted thinking about M but I plan to do some writing this afternoon. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.


P.S. Should I feel guilty for thinking about going to M’s mom or the police even if she didn’t agree? When I thought she wouldn’t do it, I was sorely tempted to do it myself.

Did I Dream This Day?

It’s been a strange day. Amazing, but weird. It started with my alarm scaring me so badly I almost yelped. I might have actually done it but I was out of it so I can’t be sure. I was super groggy when I got out of bed so it took me a while to notice I wasn’t in any pain.

You might assume I would jump for joy at this realization but not only do I never jump, as to avoid pain, but I was so confused by it I couldn’t have thought to be happy enough to leap. I simply let the dogs out and fed them, got ready and took my kid to school. I’m lucky I remembered to brush my teeth and throw a clippie in my hair.

After dropping her off I went to the gym, for the first time in four days I believe. I was a little nervous but even working out was odd today. First, I didn’t sweat while on the elliptical. I know, TMI but this was so out of the ordinary it’s worth adding to the list of strangeness that was this day.

Since it has been half a week since I worked out I expected it to be really hard but it wasn’t. I felt like I breezed through everything. Part of me wanted to stay longer and work harder but I was afraid my back would rebel. During all of this there was this tiny lady staring me down. I do mean the entire time. No matter where I went or what I did she was right there.

She had no expression on her face so I couldn’t figure out why she only had eyes for me. It was so uncomfortable! Eventually I got tired of it so after she once again got settled on the machine closest to mine I got up and went into the 30-minute workout room to finish up. I kept expecting her to come in there but she didn’t. I forgot about her and did what I needed to. When I left the room I saw her right outside the doorway but she was turned away.

I felt like a guilty child rushing past, hoping I wouldn’t get caught, but I did. A woman I previously worked with stopped me before reaching the other corner and we stood and talked for a few minutes. I was happy to see her but I wished we were standing anywhere but where we were. I could feel those eyes on me again!

When my conversation was ending, tiny lady walked past us and went into the locker room. So I went to sit in a massage chair for a while. While sitting there I realize I was being stupid. The poor woman had probably accidentally focused on me while she was working out and she might not have any idea she’d made me so uncomfortable. As there was nothing I could do about it I stopped thinking about it and tried to enjoy the massage.

Then I went to the locker room. Standing in front of my locker, naked, was tiny lady. She jerked a towel up in front of her, lengthwise, and scowled when she saw movement but as soon as she saw my face she relaxed and dropped the towel. She turned her back to me and went about her business. I don’t know precisely what that business was because I was too busy trying to find my locker without actually looking anywhere in its direction.

I’m pretty sure I bent sideways to retrieve my bag. This is impressive because as far as I know I shouldn’t be able to do that without a lot of pain. I promptly went into one of the changing rooms and closed the curtain. I heard a loud sigh from her, which prompted me to change slower than I ever have, ever, in the history of ever.

I heard another woman walk in and she made this odd little squeaky, gaspy sound. This was followed by a snort and a laugh, origin unknown. I’m sitting there on the little bench trying my hardest not to giggle at how ridiculous the whole situation was when I hear some huffing sounds. I believe they were offended noises but I can’t be sure, then someone walked out. I guess another lady had come in because one said “Can you believe that?” and another answered “Nope.” Then all was quiet and I finished changing.

When I peeked out there was only one other person in the room and she jerked around and stared at me in horror, then relief, I’m guessing because she feared I was also naked. She smiled at me sheepishly and we both left.

In the parking lot I was almost approached by a drunk woman asking for money (this was 9am!) but she was fixated on a man who’d come out before me. She kept yelling “Sir!” over and over but he was ignoring her. She turned in my direction and said “Ma’am,” but then turned back to the fleeing man and forgot about me.

I headed to what is quickly losing its title of ‘favorite writing place” to write. There was some guy in my spot, for the second time in a week. I guess it’s become his favorite spot too. So I sat in at the second choice table. It was a little uncomfortable because I didn’t have my laptop and while I can write without it, it was a change in my routine that threw me off. Still, I had my tablet and a spiral so I got to work.

The end of my novel was rearing its head at me. I was half excite and half terrified. Add in being weirded out by how my day was going and I had no clue if I’d be able to write. I did. My first task was to type up a few scenes I’d handwritten, then I wrote a couple more. When it came time for the last scene I realized I’d already written it, weeks ago, by hand. I was hungry by this point and my back started hurting so I went home for lunch and to search for the scene. I never found it. I searched through everything but it was nowhere.

I tried looking on the computer, just in case I’d already typed it up. It wasn’t there either. I searched through all my spirals and notes again, then again. Finally I decided to rewrite it. It irritated me because I liked the way I wrote it originally and I didn’t feel like the new version lived up to it, but I can fix it during revisions.

Then it struck me. I was finished with the first draft! I was so distracted by my odd day and the search for the elusive scene, I hardly noticed my accomplishment. I didn’t feel excited. I felt weird. It was like I couldn’t believe it or something. This day has simply been too weird.

So I must be dreaming, although I hope not because I don’t want to dream about odd tiny naked ladies, and spot stealing men. I certainly don’t want to write that final scene again!

Sidenote: There were several more odd occurrences today. From me leaving the dogs alone to take my son to the store without thinking about it (we never leave them unsupervised) to a woman calling me from the doctor’s office saying I owed $700 I don’t actually owe (which she discovered was an error on their part). I hope nothing else strange happens today. One can only take so much!