Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Getting back on track

Before I attempt to go anywhere with this post let me start with things said by my family in the last few days:

*At dinner with out of town relatives: "How did your dinner taste?" Parent A's reply "Like it was good for me."

*Me coming home after a meeting & seeing my husband eating the casserole I made for dinner: "How is it?" Husband "It'd be better without the vegetables in it."

If I don't start writing this stuff down, I'm losing material for later.

I've been spinning my wheels a little the last week and some change. I haven't written a bit, but I have been reading. In my defense, I've been sick, so focus and mental acuity have fled the building. I got worse before I got better, but I think I'm finally *knock on wood, sage the house, sprinkle everyone with holy water & spray the next person who sneezes or coughs near me with Lysol* on the mend. Which is a relief considering yesterday when my husband asked how I was feeling I replied, "Like I should have had tubes put in my ears." I've already mentally written an excuse note to myself about being AWOL on my to-do list. But it is time to get back to it.

Just because my eyes and nose are crusted over, I'm hacking up parts of my liquefied lungs, everything made of bone or muscle a-c-h-e-s in the worst way and I can't hardly draw breath through even one nostril, doesn't mean my imagination has taken a sick day. Quite the contrary. While I am a grumpy mess unable to get comfortable no matter what, I am fielding story ideas and plot suggestions and character development like crazy. Very little comes of any of that, as I'm foggy and cantankerous and achy and the thought of staring at a monitor makes my eyes seal shut. By the time I'm feeling slightly more human, I'm jonesing to make notes on whatever I'm able to remember.

I've also fallen egregiously behind on coffee drinking. Perhaps the most despicable of all the permutations of generic illness: lack of interest, willingness and or ability to make or go out and get coffee. Despite only being a coffee drinker for almost a year, this most of all worried my family.

Today, I read, I'm writing and I had an extra dose of life affirming coffee.

There has been some cool stuff bracketing this sick nonsense. Writing group/friends/people/humans/bipeds/vertebrates went on a local boat tour. Perfect weather, comfortable vessel. They could have cranked up Jimmy Buffet, passed out iced tea and just done a few laps around the lake and I would have been happy. It was a good time for sure. Also, we all zeroed in on the perfect serial killer death shack. Because that's what happens when writers get together. Innuendo and death. Two of us later went to see one of the Best Picture nominees, Spotlight. Incredible movie. I can't even begin to articulate the emotional response I had. (I see a consistent problem with my inability to use words to describe situations and things and my desire to write...) There was another outing planned, but it was called on account of ridiculously frigid weather. There may or may not have been pancakes instead. And then today, I got free tickets to an advanced screening of a comedy my husband & I were thinking of going to see when it comes out.

Writing: Nada for a week +

Naps taken: 2 for the year, I think. Very disappointing.

Reading: Finished 2 library books, almost done with a 3rd just in time to pick up a newish Stephen King book from the library. I'm kind of in a dark, twisty, introspective reading vein. This will give way to more genres the more I read, but right now it just feels good. I'm going with it.

Language: Aw, shucks. I've got no excuses except a shitty memory and allowing myself to get distracted. I have actually begun to follow a few YouTube language guides, but I'll do more when I load some podcasts that I can listen to no matter what I'm doing.

Coffee: Haven't had any in more than a week, so I took a flying leap off the unintentional wagon and grabbed a venti on the way to critique group. And I enjoyed each and every sip of it.

Positivity: I always feel pressure when I'm sick, but even more so when I start to feel better. There's so much that needs to get done, that I couldn't get to or forgot to take care of. So I feel a little under pressure now to make sure I catch up, BUT I still feel overwhelmingly like everything's good and there is some awesomely amazing, great stuff on the way. Which is a nice change from how I felt yesterday:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Hard Day's Night

What's it like to have a traditional (as if the idea even really exists) mother? What's it like having your mom call and nag you about who you're dating, your marriage, when you are having kids, why you don't have kids, why you have so many kids, why you make your meatloaf with breadcrumbs instead of corn flakes, etc etc etc? What's it like to be able to call your mom at times of immense stress for advice or support? What's it like to have a mom who doesn't look at you at least once a month like you're dog poop on new shoes or the devil in the flesh?

It's not my intent to sound whiny. Truly, I have been very clear that aside from the strain of watching your parents decline, it has been special to spend time with them. However my thoughts come across tonight, I am grateful my parents are still here and are with me.

Tonight though, is the reflection of a typically difficult evening with my mother. She cycles, and right now we are in the midst of an obsession about her health. Specifically, about a malady she is convinced she has.

This has been a fairly common thing for her to struggle with, but over the last few years as she's aged, as all of our lives grow and change, the rest periods are fewer and farther between. It's my understanding that hypochondria and medical obsessions can be common/co-morbid with various mental illnesses. This is not to be confused with some doctors who believe anything outside of what they expect a patient to say is all in their head. Those people are assholes. And are all too common to find.

In my youth, I was aware of my mom having a few medical problems in addition to whatever she saw the psychiatrist for. Aside from her being in the hospital for a procedure once or twice when I was a kid, I wasn't really aware of what specifically was wrong with my mother. Her medical problems (along with her psychiatric issues) seemed to slowly increase after I was a teenager. When I was in college and we lived apart, I remember her needing a few surgeries but also that there started to be lots of testing for everything under the sun.

Around the time my first nibling was born, the dam burst and she had what ended up being a physical manifestation of her mental illness. And it went on for years. The slightest stress, the slightest worry, her mind wandering far away from us and dwelling on the dark recesses hidden from the world would send my mom into what looked like a seizure. Except they weren't. Endless testing and doctors and tinkering with medications proved it. I noticed the correlation and if I distracted her before the tremors progressed beyond her hands, I could stop what was coming. Over time (like almost a decade) this psychosomatic situation slowly dissipated until we realized she hadn't had one in more than a year. From time to time, especially over the last year or two, the tremors in her hands start up when she's getting lost in her own head, but it hasn't moved beyond that stage. Thankfully.

My mom portrays herself as a very fragile and unloved victim when she's not well. I can't begin to count the number of times she's manipulated people to try to get them to believe she's mistreated - to the point I was once almost arrested and another time my freaking siblings believed it. And I know that part of it is her illness and part of this is because she was abused as a child and wants someone to recognize that something's been done to her. There's a disconnect that she's safe and comfortable now. The rational part of my mom's brain set sail a long, long time ago.

The short version of her medical obsessions is that nothing has ever been found. Which I understand better than some that medical testing is not infallible. But if you had even the slightest understanding of the diversity and inconstant nature of her maladies you would understand that there isn't anything to be found. I've taken her to just about every kind of specialist known to man. She's got some medical issues, absolutely. But then she reads the warning label for whatever prescriptions she gets and we spend months (or longer) hearing that she's got every single fatal symptom listed. Her doctors have asked us not to let her see the inserts on the medicines anymore.

Also, her symptoms and complaints vary depending on problems or illnesses being experienced by other members of the household. If I have a sinus infection, within 2 days of her knowing, she's taken to her bed. My mother has had maybe 4 colds in my lifetime. Tops. If I'm having an arthritis flare up, suddenly she needs a cane to walk. If my father's sick... well, when he's sick she's convinced he's dying, but once he's on the mend she's 'sick' for the next week. My husband had tendonitis and she needed a sling for her arm.

So I'm on day two and a half of fighting a crappy bug I must have picked up this last weekend. I've recently suggested that a contributing factor to my mom's 'crippling' back and knee pain is the chair she spends 65% of her day in - because I sat in it for an hour and could barely walk afterwards. Which means it's time for her to switch her obsession to something I can't fix. If that sounds narcissistic, trust me, I get it. But I'm also 30+ years into my mom's weird relationship with me. The minute I suggest something practical to help with her pain, discomfort, illness, whatever, her eyes bulge, she leans towards me and starts slinging as much sludge as she can my way. I am mean. And I am evil. And I don't provide the care and necessities she needs. Today she tried to tell me that she's never allowed to go see the doctor. I asked her about her regularly scheduled visits with at least 3 doctors and why she hasn't made an appointment to see a doctor about the current illness du jour if it's as serious as she believes. She didn't care for reality and became even more hostile.


This too shall pass. She'll either cycle out of the obsession or fixate on something else. I'd like to hope she'll have a lull, but so far I don't see that on the horizon. Tomorrow my dad is supposed to call her doctor about today's concern to get a recommendation of treating at home, coming in for a check-up or going straight to the specialist Mom's seen in the past.

Hopefully, tomorrow is a calmer day.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I spent Wednesday night/pre-dawn Thursday tending to a sick puppy - puppy being a relative term used interchangably with senior dog who thinks he is- and is treated as though he is- people. He didn't always make it outside and it was coming out of both ends. We are now 3 months past finding out he's got cancer and should have been dead more than 2 months ago. So every time he's the slightest bit off, there is an extra bit of panic that sets in. His stomach, and the accompanying entrances & exits that were highly unhappy, finally settled for the night some time around 4/4:30ish. He wagged after his last round of abdominal pyrotechnics, which eased my concerns a bit. That little wag is his kind of all clear after not feeling so hot. I woke up to the girl dog, my little pretty princess roller derby dog with the constitution of a goat, refusing to eat and curled up in a ball with very little interest in the day.

What I also woke up to was the stunning news that Alan Rickman had died.

It was another instance of Facebook being the news, and while the first person's feed I saw was a completely reliable source, I checked with credible news sites.

I was numb. I knew that this was going to be a far more twisty-to-my-insides kind of thing than being struck dumb over David Bowie's death a few days earlier. But I was numb. My first thought was honestly, well it happens in 3's. And then I shoved it in a worn cardboard box in my brain and set about getting done what else I had to get done on the little sleep I'd gotten. 

The boy puppy devoured his breakfast and was in high spirits, his tummy troubles forgotten. With girl puppy (a rescue of unknown age, but solidly on the side of adult/senior-ish dog) not feeling her usual minx-like self so soon after the boy puppy, I suspected a short-term tummy bug and hoped for the best while I kept a wary eye on her. I was glad I was attempting to make chicken stock for the first time because I would have simple boiled down chicken and carrots to try on her on later. 

I had places to go and appointments to keep and by the time I got home I was running on fumes. I had made myself a coffee to go before I left the house (just managing to catch that I had forgotten to add the coffee as the water started heating up), carefully drinking from my insulated travel cup because I'm clumsy and I have a history of spilling just about anything I eat or drink. Today I learned my nifty insulated travel cup leaks. I learned it after went to an appointment with a large coffee stain on the front of my shirt that I didn't notice until much too late. Can't win 'em all.

As I sat at my desk in the late afternoon and tried to make some sense out of the thoughts I had compartmentalized earlier in the day, tears burned my eyes. My mother, who has not had the most stable of mindsets in the weeks following Christmas had been circling me. If that sounds strange, it's something she tends to do when either A. she senses something's off in me or B. she's having extra troubles. This was firmly a combo of both. I love my mother, but I can tell you that she has a sixth sense when my defenses are down and it's not so that she can give me a supportive hug and kind words of encouragement. I shoved everything away again. This was not the time to process.

So? Hours later the boy puppy slurped up his dinner (without spitting out his meds, a major victory in the day) and girl puppy happily downed a very modest but well tolerated bit of boiled chicken and vegis & wanted more. I was relieved. Even more so that her modest dinner has stayed put.

And I still feel numb, interspersed with moments of complete heartbreak. I spent the better part of the last twenty years (ahem, or longer) saying various version of the following: "I'd gleefully listen to Alan Rickman read from a phonebook, A-Z. Every page." Some of my favorite movies, from preteen through my ultimate favorite in adulthood? He's in them. Yeah, he's in a certain blockbuster franchise. And yeah, he was fantastic in it. But I adored him so much before that.

For someone who attempts to weave words into cohesive and interesting stories, I am at a loss for how to express the depth of artistic appreciation (as well as obsessive devotion to that distinctive timbre of his voice) I have for him. What I do know is that there are a list of movies that for some time to come, I will suddenly find myself heartbroken and tear stricken as I watch.

Because he'll need their spoons... get it? 

This seems like sound advice today.

Today made that abundantly clear.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Brief update

I'm sure I have something rattling around in my noggin that I'd ordinarily want to purge, but I'm tired with a monster headache brewing. Also, it's chilly and a great night to curl up with a good(ish) book or do some character plotting. Or fart around with a game for a few minutes. Whatever floats your boat. 

I am, headache whining aside, in a pretty good mood after hearing some lovely things about a piece of short fiction I wrote & reading some good fiction from future bestselling authors. One of these days I'm going to have to submit something somewhere once more. Gotta think on that. Gotta get a lot more writing in as well. 

I'm feeling writey (that's a technical term) but I also feel like catching up on some reading or, dare I say it, one of my neglected tv/online shows. I'd hang my head in shame, but I'm partially kind of proud that I don't ordinarily have time to binge watch. It also just feels right that if I have a towering, never ever to be completed to-be-read pile that I have a long list of shows and movies I may never finish either. How are people bored? I don't have enough time to do all the things I'd like to.

Here's the run down:

Writing: Spread across Jan 8-11, I wrote 1968, 514 & 736 words. Lost track of which days those numbers go with, but they still count. 

Naps taken: Still none. This is an annoying trend.

Reading: Finally finished The Girl on the Train, almost done with the other book I'm reading. Another book cued up from the library & going to get back to a book series I'm behind on that I have at home before the next book is released in March. 

Language goal: Still slacking, but did visit the French pastry shop with delightful results AND actually spoke a bit of French with the owner. C'est bon! 

Coffee consumed: hitting this one out of the park - go me!

Positivity: Outlook still optimistic. Thumbs up. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

I have several blog posts I’ve started only to get distracted when my brain jumps on a shinier idea du jour. Don’t even get me started on story outlines and starts - I could wallpaper a few houses with those. But these short little non-fiction blog bursts keep me writing when I can’t sit still long enough to lose myself in the tangles of world building. As time has allowed the last few days I’ve been trying to put together a new post. Now, normally it doesn’t take that long for me, but the last 72 hours have been a bit hectic. Garden variety, day ending in -y kind of stuff in my house and life, but from time to time things like to converge. As they do. For the uninitiated, it’s not just misery who loves company. Crazy does, too.

Today though, I feel a little out of touch with reality myself. I happened to be up when the news broke that David Bowie had died. 2-something in the morning or noon, I felt sideswiped. My chest felt hollow, my heart heavy, my stomach dropped.  I can’t claim to own his every record. I can’t claim to have seen him live and in person. I can’t claim to have idolized him. None of that is true. (It’s not true in general for me, not just for Ziggy Stardust.) But what I did know about him and his story, what I was versed in (his depth, his creativity, his ridiculously supernatural talent), what performances of his that spoke to me… those things made his death feel so much more personal and like such a raw fucking deal for humanity as a whole. And whatever I feel, however I’m processing the death of a public figure, of an artist, is nothing in comparison to his family and friends right now.

I went about my day as I normally would. I took care of my day-to-day stuff. But I felt off. My chest still feels hollow. My heart’s cracked. David Bowie’s music may never have gotten me through difficult periods of my life on its own, but I am humbled to realize just how many of his song lyrics are indelibly imprinted in my brain. He’s certainly there all right, even if I never gave him enough spotlight time in my music collection.

So what’s my problem, aside from being able to appreciate his art and evolution?

I have a deep and enduring love for the genius that came from the mind of Jim Henson. Mix that with one of the minds of Monty Python and an early love of fantasy escapism and I would love to go back in time and correct the wrong that movie goers did by allowing Labyrinth to be a box office flop. I was probably 8 by the time I saw Labyrinth from the comfort of my childhood living room. (It took a long, long time for movies to get to cable back in the day.) My young reader’s heart was completely swept away by creeper, stalky Jareth. Still is. (I like a dark ‘hero’ & I’m completely shamefree about it. Stemming most likely from this movie.)

I was entranced as he reminded Sara of every (stalker, weird, dark, horrific, awesome) thing he had done for her. Whether that speaks to some kind of messed up psychological issue or not, I can look back now and see that Jareth is firmly part of my psyche. And, as my filters have taken the day off, you can kiss my ass if anyone else could have played Jareth. Cocky, dark, twisty… a codpiece that 30 years later has its own fandom and memes. In that respect, a vibrant part of the DNA of my writing inspiration has left this world. I guess it makes sense that I feel at least a little broken.

Of the Star Wars variety
I wiped away a few silent but happy tears a few weeks ago when I saw the new Star Wars movie. When Rey used the force in the final fight scene? My inner child lost her freaking mind. I knew what was going to happen, but my emotional response to that scene surprised me. Less than a month later, my emotional response is swinging the other way. My nostalgia is now melancholy. Thank you, Mr. Jones, from one of the countless souls you inspired.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Food Focused

I find myself caught up in a bit of a cooking whirlwind this week, a sort of end of the holidays wrap up.

The Southern tradition of New Year's Day dinner of ham, greens, black eyed peas and cornbread is alive and well in my husband's family. Which means come January 2, I've got (another) ham bone, poking at my good sense to not let go to waste. Too many years watching cooking channels, too many cooking reality shows, too many cookbooks, or maybe just my ever increasing age not wanting to let an opportunity go by to do something with leftover bits I would have once happily chucked.

In my youth my dad would take the ham bone and make ham & beans. I think it might have been soup. It might have just been a bunch of cooked down beans and chopped up ham bits. I really couldn't tell you. Not a big ham person, especially back then. And legumes have always been on my no-fly list. It's the texture.

But I'm older now and aside from my own personal distaste for wasting food (my grandma would be so proud) I have a house full of older folk who circle me like vultures on roadkill wanting to know what my plans are for the leftovers. For a few years I've tried to make ham & beans, using the dried beans that come with seasoning packets from the grocery store. My older folks ate it, but I still wasn't touching it.

This year, I opted for soup with the slightest addition of one kind of bean: the benign cannellini bean. Ham soup? Still not my thing. But it was a gateway drug into a week of various soups and recipes all chopped and simmered from scratch. I guess the first question should be, can I cook? Is part of my distaste of certain mainstream food a lifetime of burnt cereal, raw toast and microwave-roasted chicken? (That last one, while not something I have ever made, IS something someone made me. More than once. Dis-gust-ing doesn't cover it. Also, I knew someone who burned a pan boiling water. And don't get me started on ketchup spaghetti.)

Yeah, I can cook. I can really bake, but I can hold my own cooking. Not, like, against a seasoned professional chef. Let's not get crazy.

So yesterday I made chicken noodle soup, from raw chicken to warm, comforting goodness. Bonus points because I remembered to write down the changes I made to the original recipe that made it turn out so good. Today I made pasta e fagioli (fah-zool - because pronunciation matters here), a hearty pasta and bean soup perfect for a chilly day. And if my husband is willing to A. eat it at dinner and B. take the leftovers for lunch the next day, it was yummy. Bonus points again because I wrote down my changes again. My father-in-law said I was spoiling them. Compliments are rare from my older folks, so I'll take it.

Tomorrow there is a battle of wills going on: 2 different cabbage-based soups. Hold on to your pedal pushers, kids. We get Kuh-razee around here.

I've made a lot of different recipes. I enjoy (mostly) cooking. I like to try new things. But I'm really surprised that I've mostly steered away from making soups. I can make pecan pie or a loaf of bread with my eyes closed. Lip-smackin' homemade chicken wings, ribs or chili. Cookies for days. But soups have always intimidated me. So it is with a little bit of pride that I'm relieved this soup business has turned out so far so good. Also, I realized today that I'm getting a callus on my index finger from chopping so many vegetables lately. So many vegetables.

As for how I'm doing on my New Year's progress:

Jan 3: 839 words
Jan 4: 0
Jan 5: 953 words

Naps taken: regrettably, 0

Reading: 2 out of 3 days & added a 7-day limited library book

Language goal: slacking here - have not visited new French pastry shop, have not loaded my language podcasts, have not sat at my computer long enough to start lessons.

Coffee consumed: averaging about a cup a day, going into espresso withdrawals

Positivity: on the heels of tonight's soup triumph & watching one of the best Sherlock episodes, thumbs up

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016, year of getting it done

Hello from 2016!

New year, not so new me. Which I'm good with. I'm one of those weird people who, insecurities and low moments aside, am pretty happy with who I am. I'd like to be happier and I'd like to have fewer insecurities and very little in the way of regrets, so that's the kind of thing I think about at the start of a new year. I spend a lot of time with myself; it would be kind of a bummer if I didn't like me. I know too many people who don't like themselves and can't stand the idea of being alone in their own thoughts.

For my 'resolutions', I wanted to do something to keep myself a little more motivated. Two days in and I've kept up with the writing and reading. (No matter how small, I'll take the victory.) I've considered how to force myself to get to bed earlier and still get everything done in my day. (I haven't figured that out yet, so it continues to be a strong contributing factor in my coffee intake. It's also why that wasn't one of my resolutions. Pick your battles.) But I am making midnight my cutoff time for getting 'daily' tasks done - even if I have to take the sick dog out at 2 or 3 or 4 AM.

Almost no one on my personal social media wants updates on how my writing is going. (I put the almost in to give myself some mental wiggle room, and also because if my husband ever gets around to reading this he'll pitch a fit and swear he cares. This scenario is about as likely as a dragon touching down on my front lawn.) Those who feign interest want to know why it takes so long to write a book and don't understand why if I've finished writing a book that it isn't immediately available in paperback at their local discount store.

So, to make a pointless and meandering point short: I'll be keeping track of my goals here.

Jan 1 - 643 words
Jan 2 - 566 words

Naps taken : 0 satisfying, 1 total

Reading : Read both days & went to the bookstore today *happy dance*

Language goal : Bonus level unlocked, new French pastry shop opened nearby.

Coffee consumed: not nearly enough

Positivity: current mood is tired but optimistic

To the End

When I began this blog 5 years ago, it ended up being a catch-all for whatever slogged through my brain, mostly writing and the difficu...