Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Joy



Life is tough. Most days, I'm do pretty good. But there are occasionally days that are dark. I could choose to believe everything is hopeless. On those days I choose joy. Everywhere, there is at least one thing that can bring a smile to our face. I choose to seek it out.

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

Losing My Mind

Getting older is...difficult. Of all the annoying things I've encountered, memory loss is the worst. I used to have a memory like the proverbial elephant. Now, I can't remember stuff I thought about this morning. Case in point--I worked out a fairly complete blog post (in my head). Had breakfast. Sat down at my computer and that blog post is totally wiped as though someone cleaned my brain with a blackboard eraser. Boom.

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.

Blessings.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Anny's Guidelines

We all have rules or tenets we live by. As we grow older, our rules might change...

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

Failure and Success

Writers (and other creative folks) struggle with the possibility of failure and success from the moment they conceive a new project. What is their definition of failure? How will they measure success?

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.

Blessings.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Baggage

Image result for baggage


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

Any Other Name

When I submitted my first book, I carefully, with due deliberation chose my pen name. Among the many reasons, I now see the new name allowed me the opportunity to change my name without going to court. Nearly all my life I've really not liked my birth name and that dislike was compounded because my parents called me by both my first and middle name...sort of like Bobby Sue.

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

Comfort



My mother died early this morning. She was 89--nearly 90. A few of my friends knew she was not doing well so I posted a brief message on Facebook early this morning.

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

Basics

A water main broke last night due to the cold weather and we had no water for several hours. When the water came on, the hunk ran around filling pitchers and jugs, but it stayed on all night. Then another water main broke this morning so we were without water most of the day.

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

Fountain of Youth

Perhaps it's because I'm having to have a bunch of medical tests...or maybe because my mom had to be admitted to a nursing home...or even because I'm feeling age creeping up, but I took a notion to color my hair blue. Actually, it's supposed to be teal, but that didn't happen, did it?

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

Fear and Dread


I believe the scariest sentence in the English language is..."We need to do some tests." Medical tests carry the implication of bad news. Some seem innocuous until you understand the real significance. Others? Well, they're more clear cut. For instance, a nuclear stress test to rule out heart issues is pretty plain in scope. On the other hand, a belly ultrasound doesn't sound all that scary--until the doc starts mentioning words like cancer and tumors.

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

Life Passages

My mother is 89--soon to be 90. She is mostly disabled due to back issues. This weekend, suffering unendurable pain, she asked Dad to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital, knowing when she did that she would never come back home. Together, they are working to place her in a nursing home because Mom is well aware Dad can no longer care for her.

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.