Monday, September 16, 2019
I used to think it was because I had fuzzy brain syndrome. Sure, you know what that is...when your brain refuses to work due to meds or some other weird condition.
Then I thought maybe it's because I don't have any faith in my story-telling skills anymore. One too many savage reviews or something. Or an edit that just makes me tired. Or maybe it's the total lack of sales.
Perhaps it's the absence of ambition. Ill health. Fatigue. Depression.
But this! This is it! I'm simply overwhelmed by my genius. Excellent!
Who's with me?
Friday, August 30, 2019
I'm not talking about a Pollyanna attitude, but the willingness to be prepared for the worst while living every single day to the utmost. Folks in the past didn't expect winters with so much snow they were trapped for days or weeks, but they were prepared just in case with adequate water, food, and blankets/wood for warmth.
I've been pondering the increase in mental health issues we face as a species. And part of it, I believe, might come from our eagerness to embrace the worst possibility instead of the best. Think about it. I'll wait.
When the doctor sends you for a test do you immediately assume the most catastrophic news? Or do you adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Do you expect disaster? Or do you calmly prepare while moving on with your life? Do you celebrate all the benchmarks of life, enjoy every bit of happiness, even as you respect the difficulties life brings to all of us?
A popular phrase from my early adulthood was "Life is to be lived." I didn't quite understand it until the last couple years when my life has been fraught with illness and pain...when "I can't" seems so much easier than "I will". For every day I get out of bed, get dressed, and go out to do battle with whatever is on my schedule, I am grateful. And while I'm out there, I try to be as observant and alert as possible because some day I might not have that privilege and I earnestly horde every memory.
I often contemplate the joy my memories will bring. And when I do, I smile.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
Uncle Bill raised a few sheep for their wool. And he had a horse. There was a tumbledown shed he called a barn. And off about a quarter mile away was a pond with scummy water where the animals--wild and tame--would come to drink.
It was hot. Too hot to wander around outside. I was used to going to the park near our apartment in Chicago and sprawling out on a blanket to read beneath a shade tree. With little to see or do, I soon became bored.
One afternoon, my father grabbed Uncle Bill's shotgun and asked me if I would like to learn to shoot it. That perked me up right away so I eagerly followed him out to the pond, anxious to shoot something...anything, as long as I could actually hold the gun.
After a far too extensive overview of all the parts of the shotgun, he finally allowed me to shoot. The first time I ended up on my butt. That didn't stop me. Determined to learn how to use it, I crawled to my feet and went at it again. My initial excitement soon wore off as I wanted something to actually shoot. Just shooting into the pond was boring.
So my father pointed out a prickly-pear and suggested that as a target. I think he was surprised when I hit it...and the branch of the mesquite he pointed to next. He found a couple old bottles I popped on my first try. Oddly enough, I was proving to be an excellent shot.
Then I spied some tiny frogs at the edge of the pond and without much thought, popped one of them. Naturally, it disintegrated in an explosion of frog bits and blood and sand. The little group of frogs had disappeared.
I handed the shotgun to my father and went to look at the carnage. My father propped the gun over his shoulder and said, "Never point at something you don't want to kill."
I walked away, appalled and sick.
On this terrible day of mourning, I look back at that sunny afternoon and think about how I felt and how I learned a never forgotten lesson. It was personal and required an acknowledgement of the deed, the guilt never went away because it was wanton, without reason or need.
I understand hunting for food. I understand target shooting at a range. I understand sanctioned shooting in the military or law enforcement. All of those have their place. But once you take a life, wherever it might be in the scheme of things, you are never the same.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
They are storytellers. Whether they're ever actually published isn't the most important aspect of their writing, though sharing the story is an additional element. But the very action of sitting down and composing a story is the essence of who they are. They write because they have a passion for writing. Technicalities, grammar, punctuation, even spelling aren't allowed to get in the way of the story. They are the writers who sit day after day at their computer or with pen and paper, enthralled by their characters and worlds. They're the ones who can't wait for formal writing time or space and spend their time scribbling scenes and notes on bits of scrap paper or napkins.
Writing is life.
Then disaster hits. It might be family chaos or medical issues, discouragement or depression. That glorious passion and exhilaration disappears, leaving a writer husk behind. When you've been a writer most of your life, the loss is like going mentally blind. You don't just lose your stories. You lose the interest in them. And there isn't anything to take their place.
I think I'm on the edge of this lonely, lonely place...this desert where there are no characters and no worlds to explore. I used to wonder how a writer could just close up shop and walk away, but I think I know now. I'm stubborn and hate giving up on a project once I begin. I suspect that stubbornness is all that's between me and taking that walk away.
I wonder if there are no more stories for me to write. Maybe. Only time will tell.
Saturday, April 20, 2019
At that time, such an event was relatively rare, but any individual who spends time on the Internet now knows it isn't rare anymore. It's a daily event for total strangers to drown someone they don't even know in the vicious, burning acid of their unwanted, unsolicited opinions. After my experience so long ago, I have refused to allow myself to be drawn into such muck.
But I know just how easy it is.
Every one has something that's a trigger. Every one. It's usually a personal experience that resonates, that sets us up, so we jump in with both feet to batter the target. On a daily basis I read posts and comments that could easily draw me in. But after that one incident left me feeling so desolate and ashamed, I made a conscious decision to walk away, to scroll on by.
You might ask why I feel so strongly about this. It's simple. I don't want to ever again have to face the possibility I might have had any part in the destruction of another person's life, career, productivity, talent. It's incredibly easy to destroy with just a few words. Every author out there knows the truth of this statement. Every one of them knows the damage from a bad review or careless opinion can not ever be made better by a hundred fabulous reviews. For all our days we carry that bad review, that meanness in our heart.
The next time you are tempted to jump in and add your voice to the mean chorus of dissenters, think about this...there's a reason our elders taught us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
Scroll on by.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
And then...the choir moved into the Hallelujah Chorus. Without knowing how--or why--I was on my feet, chills running up my spine, my arms roughened with goosebumps. Why? I don't know. I have discussed my experience with other musicians who were not affected in the same way.
There are other pieces of music who touch me in the same way...The long (20 mins.) piece from Chariots of Fire. Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes.
The young people upstairs play their music non-stop. It's loud, heavy on the drums, and gives me a headache. I would call it rap music. I analyzed why it affects me so negatively, and realized it sounds angry to me. I find confrontation and anger very stressful so this particular music evokes all sorts of negative feelings. I wonder what it makes my neighbors feel? Power? Sex? Anger? Why do they find it so attractive?
In an effort to cancel out the negative effect, I decided to play one of my own CDs and was surprised at the result. First of all, I couldn't 'hear' the music from upstairs, though my music was pretty soft. In some weird way, it blotted it out. And second, an immediate feeling of calm flowed over me.
Certain songs always give me that soul deep sense of peace. Amazing Grace. Abide With Me. Hmm. Many of them are hymns--not surprising when I was brought up in a religious home. Some songs are universal, I think. It wasn't by accident that Amazing Grace was chosen for the funeral scene for Spock. Who can forget the sound of the pipes as his pod was shot out into space?
Music. Melodies for the soul.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
So...late Monday evening a note was posted on our door notifying us that they would be here Wednesday with exterminators to inspect all the apartments in our building. In order to be ready, we needed to empty every cabinet in the kitchen and bathroom, all the closets so they exterminators will have access to the floors. They will also inspect smoke detectors, replace filters, take pictures of the appliances, floors, etc.
We have no storage except the closets. Yesterday was akin to moving with a twenty-four hour notice. And I'm not sure how they'll take photos of the floors as they are covered with boxes and totes and all the rest of our stuff.
On the upside, I found some stuff I've been looking for. On the downside, we found stuff we need to throw out. A lot of stuff. But not today. Today, we need a shovel to just hold back the tide. And tomorrow we'll have to put it all back. More or less. The hunk has resolved to toss out at least one box per day. At that rate, it will all be done around Thanksgiving...or New Years.
As we age, we discover there are fewer and fewer 'things' we need or want. For the last three years our rule has been 'one item in, one item out'. I suppose we should go to a 'one item in, three items out' rule. Anyone have a shovel?
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Here's the thing...arrest the parents or whatever, fine the schools or whatever, but the kids are supposedly adults, so what are their consequences? They get a free ride in more ways than one? The way I see it is simple--the parents never treat their children as adults, the kids never grow up and learn to be adults. Never.
If the kid went along with the scam, then I believe there should be some sort of consequence. Maybe no admission to college for five years. Maybe not ever. Or maybe all the money paid should go into a special account that covers the college costs for students who would never have a chance otherwise to attend college. Or maybe require the ninnies to work a real job...like digging ditches or picking up trash along the beaches and highways or sorting recyclables, for the same time period they would have taken in school.
While mom and dad are having their careers trashed and their pics flashed all over the media, the kids are living the good life. Is this where we've arrived? It's fine to want better lives for your children, but teaching them the 'anyway to get ahead, legal or not' life plan isn't the way to go. It teaches the kid nothing except entitlement.
All of us learn by making mistakes. Some have the resources to escape the consequences. I'm pretty sure that isn't a good thing for them or our educational system or our country. We no longer know where the high ground is because we're so busy dancing on the low ground.
Monday, March 18, 2019
A couple nights ago we were watching a show on Netflix and he started muttering. I wasn't paying much attention as I was splitting my time between watching and reading. Suddenly, he says, "Plot hole! They never tell you how they know this!"
I had to laugh. If my non-reading husband can point out the plot issues...well, you know it's a truck size hole.
Readers might wonder how that can happen. And I have the answer. The writer carts the story around in their head for the duration. From beginning to end, they have an idea of the general layout. They sit at their computer pounding away on the keyboard, making sure the basic parameters of the story are present, but often they miss the holes simply because they know in their brain what the story is about. And what they know never makes it into the written story.
It's easy to notice the holes if you've never read/watched the story. They're obvious. But when you've worked and reworked and revised and edited a story over a period of months, the questions fade into the overall noise and background. Then you leave the reader or watcher wondering what in the world you were thinking about.
I set my books aside for a couple months so I can approach them with a fresh perspective. I'm not always successful, but I do try because I know exactly how frustrating it is to wonder...how do they know that?
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
The way I see it is a recommendation is general. Maybe you're in a library or bookstore and meet someone looking for something to read. You get into a brief discussion about books and mention several authors/titles you've enjoyed. Recommendations are general and focused on genre. For instance I might recommend N.J. Walters if someone was interested in paranormal romance or Anne McCaffrey is they were looking for sci-fi fantasy. John Sandford or Jonathan Kellerman might be good recommendations for mysteries. I might even get into a discussion about the books an author writes under different pen-names (Nora Roberts/J.D.Robb or Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick). Regardless, the entire conversation would still remain general.
A review on the other hand is personal. A review is about how the book affected a particular reader. One of the problems an author--especially a new author faces is the difficulty in understanding the difference between the two. I have a book that received both a one star review and a five star review. Same book. The one star review was quite long which is unusual. The reader trashed the book from beginning to end, citing examples. The five star review mostly consisted of "Wow!!! Great book!!!"
Both reviews were the personal opinions of one person. They might as easily have been written for Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet. And their effect on the author should be the same. What the individual reader takes away from a book depends on so much of their personal background and baggage. This is true regardless of genre. It's pretty much why I ignore reviews while paying more attention to a friendly recommendation.
A recommendation asks nothing from me. If I read one of the recommended books, I have no pre-conceived expectations except the possible enjoyment of the story. But a reviewer expects me to agree with their assessment. For my own enjoyment, I decline.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Laughter doesn't negate compassion. It doesn't wipe out grief. It doesn't take away pain or fear. What it does do is give us the healing gift of joy for however many minutes we allow it to. Isn't that the loveliest thing you've heard today?
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Before readers tell me to consult my doc STAT, been there, done that. Brain scans show nothing untoward. Best guess is some combination of medications causing brain fog. Lalalalal...
I write down stuff. As the memory has fuzzed up, my notes have grown more detailed. I used to be able to write a name/phone number down and when I glanced at them, instantly knew what the significance was. Hah. Now I write down the number, name, circumstances surrounding them, dates, etc., etc., etc. Still might have to puzzle over them for a while.
Dementia does run in my family but not until folks reach their late eighties generally. Sooooo looking forward to that--NOT. On the other hand, by then I'll have plenty of practice.
In the meantime, I'm discovering a whole new advantage to memory loss. When I re-read a book, it's like it's a brand new story. In fact, I may never have to buy a new book again. Time was I could recall the character's names, story plot and sub plots, and possibly even most of the actions. Heh. I might even remember the character's descriptions and the place the story took place in.
Yesterday, I read a Jonathan Kellerman book I've read previously, numerous times. Didn't recall anything about it until the last two chapters and then mostly had the details wrong. Interesting. It was a new experience for me. In the past, when I re-read a book it was because I looked forward to revisiting an old friend. Now it seems I'll have a host of new friends. Apparently, there are some upsides to aging.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
1) It always rains or snows when you have an appointment. The farther you have to travel, the worse the weather.
2) If you desperately need to sleep in preparation for a medical test, you'll definitely be wide awake at three a.m.
3) Your severity of need for a bathroom is directly related to how far away the restroom is. If you're wandering around in a gigantic store like Costco or Sam's Club, it will always be in the opposite corner.
4) If you take your tablet or reader with you to wile away the time while you wait on your spouse at an appointment, it will run out of power five minutes after you turn it on. If you're in the car, you can change that to three minutes.
5) On the day you have fasting bloodwork, everyone in the city you live in will show up at the lab at the same time. Your number will be 87 and you'll finally get to eat around three p.m.
6) If you are nervously waiting for the result from a medical test, you'll hear from the doctor about three weeks later. If you're not really worried about the results, he/she will call you within twenty-four hours.
7) On the day you've planned to go out to eat with your spouse for a special occasion, you'll both wake up with upset stomachs. Immediately after you cancel your plans, you'll feel fine.
8) The weather/temperature outside or inside has nothing to do with whether you're hot and sweaty or cold and shivering. That always depends on your internal thermostat. It might be eighty and you're wrapped in an afghan, or it might be twenty while you're comfortably wearing shorts and a sports bra.
9) Preparing for an appointment, a walk in the park, or a shopping trip takes approximately four hours. It might take longer if you have to shave your mustache, color your hair, or find your shoes.
10) The number of medications you have to take each day directly determines how big your spread sheet is to help you manage them.
What are your rules?
Monday, February 4, 2019
My personal notion of success and failure is three-fold for either direction. The book is a success if I think of a story idea, bring it to completion, and publish it. The book is a failure if no one reads it, no one buys it, and it languishes in limbo.
The Makepeace Sword (my last book) was both a failure and a success. It sold less than ten copies total and received one review so it pretty much ticked all the boxes as they say on the Great British Bake-off.
I admit it's hard to see the positives when the negatives are so glaring, but I have to laugh when some writer is bemoaning their lack of sales because they only sold two thousand copies of their book. The truth is, in the current climate, those kinds of sales are on the high end. I can count on ten fingers all the authors I know who are extremely successful.
Some say people don't read anymore. I don't think that's true. I think two things happen. Some readers don't buy books anymore, re-reading their favorite books instead. Maybe they can't afford more books. Maybe they aim for a higher standard of writing when they spend their money. The other reason books don't sell is because folks don't value the work and time it takes to write.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard from readers who think I should (A) send them a free book because they're such a fan of mine, or (B) should lower the prices on my books (approximately $3) because they're too expensive. Then I think about all the stuff people spend money on--coffee, eating out, etc. and I shake my head. There's that lack of respect for what I do.
We talk about how our money is worth less, but it's pretty much our own fault. Something for nothing? I don't think so. I long ago decided I'll write for myself. I happen to like my stories, my blogs, my memories. And maybe, just maybe, I'll choose to allow the occasional reader to buy what I write.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
baggage~~ what someone with kids, debt or other problems brings to a relationship.
Families. Sometimes you wonder about the general overall plan, don't you? My mom was memorialized on Friday. A surprising number of the family were able to attend, even though everyone lives sprawled across the country.
Since I wasn't able to attend, naturally I received several reports about the family gathering. Not one report agreed with the next. With a lot of experience behind me from attending years of family get-togethers, I had zero expections that they would. One of my siblings expressed concern about that and this is what I said.
Point of view. How we experience an event depends so much on our past and the mounds of baggage we insist on dragging around with us.
For some reason, likely because we base our ideas on the undependable media, we choose to believe a family unit is perfect. Sacred. Inviolate. The reality is far removed from that ideal. Some families are fortunate enough to strike close to that ideal, but the vast majority are all at the other end of the span.
Past traumas, personality clashes, different lives and even wide age differences can affect how we view our family members. I know several siblings that absolutely can't stand each other. Such is life. If another family member is toxic, then I'm all for moving on. I can only control or deal with my own baggage--not everyone else's.
Here's the deal. In those rare times when we all join together to celebrate or mourn, are we mature enough to be civil?
If not, then at least be mature enough to stay away. And take a moment to remember your baggage is your own. And it always affects your point of view.
Sunday, January 27, 2019
In my generation, my first name was the most popular girl's name--ever. Most of my classes in school average six or seven of us with some variety of my name. When I became an adult, out of my parent's home, living on my own, I firmly introduced myself using only my first name.
There are family members, however, who still call me by both my first and middle name. Heh. If I call them on the phone or send them a letter without both names they don't even know who I am. Mostly, I shrugged off the irritation--surely a minor thing in the overall scheme of things in the real world--and moved on.
Then came that day when I was offered a contract for my book, that day when I could choose any name I wanted to represent myself. And the name I chose was Anny Cook. It has elements of my past and elements of my future. After eleven years, there are far more people who call me Anny than my birth name. Transition complete.
Except for my parents and family members. It was firmly impressed on me the last two weeks while spending many hours talking to family that I am still that young woman gifted with a name by my parents so long ago. And maybe because I have other options now, I found it wasn't nearly as irritating. So, at sixty-nine there's this epiphany. Whatever name you use, you're still yourself.
Friday, January 25, 2019
Almost immediately messages of support and comfort started pouring in. I cannot possibly tell you how touched I was by the words of virtual strangers who took the time to reach out with words of love and hope.
Words are so powerful. Yes, I cried. Yes, my heart was touched beyond measure. And somewhere in that nebulous space we call the Internet and social media, for a brief moment politics and disharmony disappeared while civility and compassion reigned.
Thank you to all who wrote those few words. Blessings on your day.
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
No showers, no scrubbing the potatoes so we can bake them, no dishes, no laundry, no flushing toilets...you know, just the basics. How we take the basics for granted. We don't even think about power or water or heat until they don't work for whatever reason.
But suppose...tomorrow nothing worked. What if when we woke up there were no utilities? So no electronics. No communications. No phones. How would we find out what was going on? And what would we do if none of it came back on?
All over the world, there are numberless people who do without. They drink contaminated water from rivers and lakes. The heat their homes with dung and toxic trash. They light them at night with a fire. And communications? They don't exist.
In my warm apartment with lights and power, I reflect on how inconvenient it is because I can't take a shower. We used to call this a first world problem. But that's not really the truth because in our country we have thousands of people who don't have access to the basics. So perhaps, it isn't a first world problem, but a problem of the privileged. And we're so removed from it, we feel free to moan and bellyache because we have to do without for a few hours.
What do you suppose that says about us?
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Last week, sitting in my doc's office, I commented that getting older wasn't for sissies. The nurse said she wasn't going to--she planned to find the fountain of youth. And of course, that had me wondering. Wondering if your current age would remain the same, even if you DID find the fountain of youth. I mean, who wants to remain sixty-nine years old forever? Why do we assume we'll go back to being young? It's like in the vampire romances...whatever age you are when you're turned is your forever age. Have you ever noticed that vampires don't turn old people into vampires?
In every instance I've ever read about someone who was immortal, they always appear as youthful. So I suppose that's our ideal. It's okay to be old, but we don't want to look old. That's a flaw in our culture. We don't honor or value those who have lived a while. We ignore the possibilities they may hold wisdom and memories we need. Instead, we brush off their importance to society.
And so, I wonder. If only the elderly could find the fountain of youth, would we still be anxious to search for it?
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Some folks run, refusing to face the possibilities. Me, well, I'm a born again coward, but life is full of risks so I'll go for the tests and figure any result short of death is a win.
But...that doesn't take away the fear and dread. And the longer you wait for answers, the greater the fear and dread. I also stress out more when I don't know what the process is. I really value technicians and medical personnel who explain every test in detail. I'm one of those people who like to maintain control, even if all that consists of is the illusion of knowing what to expect.
As you get older, you find your body fails in unexpected ways. Today I was supposed to give a urine sample at the lab. Except for whatever reason I couldn't pee! What the heck happened to the six glasses of water I drank prior to my appointment??? Fortunately, the technician handed me a plastic specimen cup with lid and suggested I take it home where I could work on my problem in private. I'm pleased to report I was peeing like a champ within an hour. Ah, life.
For all the folks out there like me who are facing the scary unknown, I offer hugs, understanding, and love. We'll make it through, one step at a time. No running needed.
Monday, January 14, 2019
They live in a tiny town in east Texas in the middle of nowhere with few resources. Last night I sat in my office talking to my Dad, hearing the terrible devastation and heartbreak in his voice when he said, "She's not here. And she's never coming back."
No, she's not dead. But it's impossible for her to go home. And the unpalatable truth is--that's a lesser form of death to the folks involved. She's there alone. He's at home alone. They are not together and will not be except for the hours he will spend driving back and forth to visit.
They have asked for a form of hospice as Mom simply wants to finish her life as pain free as possible. There really isn't anything they can do to help her. She and my dad have spent considerable time deciding what they want to do. And as much as I grieve for both of them, I support them in whatever they wish. They've certainly lived long enough to make their own decisions.
When you are young, you think your parents are indestructible. Nothing can hurt them. As you get older, you start to understand that isn't true. But when you start approaching your own senior years, you finally know real fear. With all the love and best will in the world, I cannot be there for them except at the other end of the telephone. I can barely navigate a grocery store or Walmart, let alone travel 1500 miles to be with them. And that is a devastating realization.
All over the country, this same scenario is playing out for innumerable families. So I'm asking for prayers and blessings for all of us. Heartbreak hurts.