Category Archives: health and well-being

Exciting News: TAKE TWO

Subtlety is a dying art form. Or it is if I’m in charge of it. Apparently.

There’s an expression in journalism — “burying the lede” — which means, according to Wikipedia: “To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.”

Well, in my last post, I buried the important news so deep, only a couple people even figured it out. I thought I was being clever, posting the clearly-not-an-orchid pic of my daughter’s dog with a sonogram propped up against her leg. And a caption that said, “May 2018.”

And tagging the post with, “yes that’s a sonogram.”

It’s a good thing I don’t write mysteries, since apparently I’m less than competent at this whole “leaving clues” thing. Or maybe it was my failure to even point out that there was a mystery to be solved.

Sigh.

So let’s try this again, sans subtlety:

I am excited and happy to announce that my daughter is pregnant!

The baby is due in May 2018, which I hope will give me enough time to get used to the idea of my baby having a baby of her own. And also to the concept of being a grandma. Yikes!

 

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A time and a place for gratitude

Thanksgiving. A time to reflect and be grateful. It should be easy in this land of plenty, right? Except this past year it hasn’t been all that easy. We tend not to be truly appreciative of things we take for granted, and we take a lot for granted, until someone tries to take them away and then we’re all, “Oh, hell no.”

It’s been an “Oh, hell no” kind of year.

. . . and then I wrote several hundred words about things that have transpired this past year to make it difficult to feel thankful . . . until I (gently) slapped myself upside the head and said to myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? No one wants to hear that.”

DELETE DELETE DELETE

So, instead, here are a few things that have succeeded in making me immensely grateful and appreciative in the past twelve months.

I have siblings. No matter how difficult certain losses and situations have been or inevitably will become, my sisters are there to share them. I am so grateful I’m not an only child.

I have writer friends. As much as I love and treasure my non-writer friends, there is a special camaraderie among writers, an understanding that doesn’t need to be explained about the struggles and triumphs of being a writer. I am immensely grateful to have found the community of smart and funny writers over in the comment section at agent Janet Reid’s blog. This is not the only place where my writer friends congregate, but it’s by far the most plentiful and diverse sampling, which has value all on its own. I appreciate that Janet tolerates our neurotic brand of crazy creativity even as she attempts to educate us about an agent’s perspective of publishing.

Speaking of that blog, Janet occasionally hosts flash fiction contests, which I occasionally enter. [WARNING: shameless self-promotion ahead] [someone has to do it] [apparently] The competition is FIERCE and I never expect to win or even be a finalist. It’s great practice, but this is not my forte. I mean, please, I can barely say hello in 100 words, let alone tell a complete story incorporating five ungainly prompt words. Except, this past weekend, my entry DID manage to be a finalist.

These were the prompt words, first names of the authors whose books were the prize:

Tony
Peter
Mick
Nick
Bill

This was my entry, exactly 100 words:

* * *

My brother’s joint was the kind they’d slip you a mickey sooner than start an honest fistfight.

The regulars played billiards in the back, the snick of balls an accent to rough voices. Couldn’t compete with the tony clubs on the north side, but the table felt was immaculate. Priorities.

Conversation petered out as I stepped up to the bar.

“We don’t serve cops.”

“Good thing I ain’t planning to order one.”

We traded hard stares, harder memories.

“Cut bait while you still can, Frank.”

He sneered.

Priorities.

Goddammit.

I held the door for the Feds on my way out.

* * *

These were Janet’s comments (she generously tells us what she liked about each finalist and/or why she chose it, which is remarkably educational):

“That first line is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The importance of a good first line can not be overstated. And the ending is sublime. This is a perfect story.”

SQUEEEE. And yet, even with it being a “perfect story,” someone else won. THAT’S how tough these contests are (if you want to see the other finalists and winner, they’re here). But I was just thrilled, to put it mildly. A few words of praise from someone with her experience go a very long way. And for that I am deeply thankful.

Let’s see, what else.

Oh, I know! Some of you might remember that last December my Bossy Older Sister gave me a birthday gift of a year of flowers, specifically orchids. I received the twelfth delivery yesterday and I think they’re the most beautiful of all. Of course, I’ve said that about each month’s delivery. This pic makes them look rather pink, but they’re actually a deep rich cranberry colour.

November 2017

Here’s a shot from above, the colour is a bit better:

I’m grateful for her generosity and creative gift-giving skills. I posted pics of a few of the early months’ orchids last spring but sort of got distracted and forgot to post the rest of them. So here they are, April through October (slideshow):

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Aren’t they gorgeous? What’s that, you say? One of the pics is not like the others? Well, imagine that.

IMAGINE THAT.

Yes, that is yet another thing for which I am grateful and thankful and OMG SO EXCITED ABOUT and very much looking forward to in the coming year.

What have you found to be thankful for in this “Oh, hell no” year?

 

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Ain’t no cure for the summertime flu

My daughter texted me the other day to confirm that they’ll be back in town on the 24th — which is this coming Monday! — and I was confused and surprised to realize they’ve been gone two and a half weeks already. Because I’ve been sick the entire time.

I’m just starting to emerge from the menthol-cough-drop-scented haze of near-death to realize . . . I’ve lost a couple weeks.

This malaise, whatever it is, started out as a mere sore throat. Worst sore throat ever, but still, that was the only symptom. For a short time, maybe three hours, I thought perhaps it was simply a bad cold. But no, it was just gathering strength.

If you took all the worst symptoms of an awful cold and all the worst symptoms of a horrible flu, and combined them, that’s what I’ve had. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sick and this completely wiped out. Absolutely worthless.

The only thing I’ve accomplished in the past couple weeks is to not let the cat and dog die of thirst or starvation. It was a near thing.

I lost my voice during the first week and have been whispering to them ever since:

“Jenny, are you hungry?” Like it’s some big secret.

“Do you want to go outside? No, kitty, you stay here.” This mission, should you choose to accept it, is highly classified.

“Are you ready to come in? Good girl.” Quick, don’t let the neighbours see you.

My head has produced so much green slime, I could supply several seasons of Nickelodeon and the next three Ghostbusters movies. Seriously, I’ve gone through FOUR LARGE BOXES of kleenex. So far.

And I’m telling you, somewhere underneath this middle-aged sprawl, I’ve got one hell of an eight-pack of coughing muscles going on. Of course, I’m now wearing my lungs on the outside and my diaphragm is up around my neck, but my coughing muscles are mighty impressive.

I am so sore.

Yes, I know. This is disgusting and I shouldn’t be talking about it. I’m totally going for the pity factor, here.

While I’ve been suffering, my daughter and her husband have been enjoying a lovely and relaxing vacation in the wilds of far eastern Canada. She reports they only saw one BEAR, while they were in Maine, and it was quite small and afraid of them. Right. I’m sure its mother, no doubt lurking protectively in some nearby bushes, was terrified of them as well.

Not that I was worried.

Here’s a picture of their version of a “simple” meal while roughing it. I can’t wait for them to get back so they can cook for meeeee. Her caption read: “Eating PEI mussels in a white wine cream broth, cooked campside on PEI, while looking at Nova Scotia across the strait.”

Yes, PEI is Prince Edward Island. I can tell you that’s where they were, since they’re no longer there. Here’s another shot from the same place, which she captioned: “Room with a view.”

I hope they won’t be too disappointed when they arrive chez moi in a few days to discover that, between bouts of coughing and sleeping 14 hours a day, I haven’t managed to finish clearing off space in the pantry for them. Or in the fridge. Maybe they can set up their tent and a cooler in the back yard until I get things sorted.

Oh well. As I said, at least the pets are still alive, even if they do think they’re now undercover spies. My current status is somewhat more iffy.*

 

 

*OK, seriously, I am MUCH improved. My voice is back, although an octave lower, and I’m even eating real food again. I just have that annoyingly persistent cough you get with the flu, the one that will apparently last *coughcough* the rest of my life. *cough*

 

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It’s never nothing

Let’s see, where were we . . . in our last episode, our heroine was tied to the tracks and a train was approaching, with no (capable) help in sight.

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Sorry, wrong story. Maybe it’s just me, but that sort of sums up how helpless I feel lately.

My dad used to say: “It’s never nothing.” It was his version of: “It’s always something.” November has proven that adage, several times over.

I know, some of you are waiting to hear the final results of NaNo. It wasn’t a complete bust, although Life sure did its best to get in the way.

First there was the election. And the results, which we are just not going to talk about, because . . . well, just because. But I eventually convinced myself to stay mostly offline, or at least not look too long or too hard at twitter and facebook, and I was starting to re-focus on writing.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, my mom made an unscheduled trip to the hospital’s emergency room via ambulance. I’m not going to get into medical details over here — my personal privacy policy makes HIPPA look like a freakin’ sieve — but I will say that she was there for five days (mostly due to it being a holiday weekend during which certain tests were not going to happen unless it was an emergency) (I’m very grateful she wasn’t considered an emergency), and then she was discharged to a rehab/transitional care place.

And then, not even 48 hours later, in the least fun text I’ve ever received at 4 AM, came word that she was right back in the hospital again. Where she still is, as I write this. But she’s getting better, albeit slowly, and we expect she’ll be headed back to transitional care in a day or so.

Never have I been more aware of how relative is the term “better.”

As you might imagine, trying to concentrate on writing (or anything else) with all this going on more than 1200 miles away has been damned near impossible. Honestly, I haven’t tried very hard in the past week. You know, priorities being what they are.

But I did manage to write 20,057 words in November, split between two different manuscripts. Probably that’s 20,057 words more than I would have written if I hadn’t participated in NaNo. Astonishingly, some of those words seem to do what I want them to do and might not even need to be deleted during edits.

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So, no, not 50K words. But I’m calling it a win.

Don’t judge me. I need a win right now.

My plan for December is to just continue focusing on writing. And try not to panic at the sound of the phone ringing or the notification that a new email or text message has arrived. Any celebrations in December, including my upcoming birthday, are going to be small and quiet. Understated. Practically invisible.

No, I’m not being a Scrooge. I’m simply acknowledging the truth that I’m not in the mood for celebration. I’m listening to that inner voice advocating self-care over forced displays of holly-jollity.

I can’t fix all the problems in the world. Hell, I can’t even fix all the problems in my own little corner of it. But I can write stories that, if I get it right, might provide a few moments of distraction and enjoyment for someone at a time when that’s exactly, perhaps desperately, what they need.

God knows, stories have certainly helped me get through this disaster we’re calling 2016. If my stories can do that for even one person, I’ll be calling that a win as well.

 

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To a Year of Living Selfishly

I’ve been feeling reflective for the last week or so. No, not the kind of reflective that makes you all shiny and highly visible so you won’t get hit by a car while you’re out doing questionable things in the dark. The kind where you look back on the past several years and realize how many significant events you’ve experienced in that time. I was going to say “endured,” but that implies they were all bad and they certainly were not. But neither were they all good.

When I say they were significant, I mean they were significantly distracting or required significant amounts of time and energy from me. Many of them I haven’t talked about over here, or anywhere else, because, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, I am a very private person. There are things I’m just never going to talk about in public spaces. Or even in semi-private ones.

But holy guacamole, it’s been one hell of a few years. Sometimes to the point where I wanted to yell, “STOP IT. I CAN’T EVEN THINK ANYMORE WITH ALL THIS. JUST. FUCKING. STOP.” It all has taken a toll, that’s for sure.

And now, suddenly, there’s nothing significant on the horizon. Not that there won’t be, because of course there will. Life happens. “It’s never nothing,” as my dad used to say. But there’s nothing scheduled or looming and I’m feeling gloriously free for the first time in a very long time. And determined.

I don’t make resolutions at the New Year, never have. So it’s sort of a weird coincidence that I’m feeling all resolute here in early January.

I was talking to my daughter about this when she and her husband were here visiting during the last week of December and it was difficult to articulate without sounding like I didn’t enjoy the hell out of many of those events. Because I did. Especially my children’s weddings, which were wonderful. But at the same time, I’m glad they’re done.

I’m delighted beyond words that my calendar is clear. The sheer relief of having no upcoming obligations is staggering.

I really hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this, but I feel like I’ve done my time. For a while, anyway. I’ve given so much of myself to others — sometimes eagerly and with great joy and pleasure, sometimes not — but now it’s my turn.

I anticipate– no, I am determined that this year is going to be epically, gleefully selfish. I am resolved to focusing on what I want, and what I want is to write fiction. I’m going to concentrate on that pretty much to the exclusion of all else.

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So don’t anyone plan on having any dramas or crises or grand celebrations, okay? At least, not any that require my participation or attention. I’m gonna be busy over here, learning how to say “no” more often and taking care of my own needs for a change.

Who knows, maybe a few of you will conclude that’s of benefit to you as well. It’s a new year, anything’s possible.

 

Oh, by the way, if any of you want to be notified when I’ve completed said works of fiction and they’re available for purchase, you might want to sign up for my mailing list, which you can do HERE.

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