Monthly Archives: September 2015

My Calendar

blogpictures 003

I started a new part-time job last week. It’s a job closely related to teaching, a great love of mine, so I find it interesting and meaningful. Sadly, it doesn’t pay well and I haven’t found a way to increase my speed and productivity. In fact, although I believe my work is well-considered, maybe even good, I am nowhere near meeting my quota. My stats fall woefully short of corporate expectations. And I’m not getting any faster.

Speed has never been my forte. It takes me a half hour to eat a piece of toast for God’s sake! I don’t even like to drive the speed limit, let alone go above it. I nearly had a panic attack trying to get through the turnstiles in the London underground with all those nattily-dressed, running, right-handed people swiping their passes faster than the naked eye could see, jogging up the escalators on the proper side (Is it the right, or the left?) while carrying backpacks, and umbrellas, and flowers, and packages of all sorts, texting their loved ones, and wearing impossibly beautiful shoes. I mean, I almost didn’t make it!

Not that I wouldn’t go back to London in a second. I love London. I’m just sayin’.

East Finchley Tube Station, London

East Finchley Tube Station, London

I prefer kayaks to speed boats, shoes to roller skates, books to movies. I enjoy taking the scenic routes, and taking my time. Since I’m a much more a slow pour of molasses than a quick shot of tequila, I’m wondering if this is the right job for me… I mean it. I’m really wondering.

Meanwhile, I’ve done some training in preparation for another new part-time job, one that is also related to teaching. I’m just waiting for some paperwork to come through so I can begin that one. That job doesn’t pay well either, but it’s not so fast-paced. Even so, once that job begins, I will quite busy working two jobs and making hardly any money, basically working full-time. Busy, busy, busy. Hardly any money. Hmmm.

And there won’t be much energy left for creative writing. I know that isn’t an acceptable excuse. Hardly any writers have the luxury of devoting themselves to full-time writing. Most of us have other careers, other jobs, other responsibilities, and during the past year when I had quite a bit of free time, I didn’t complete my novel. I did get a lot of good stuff written, though, and it was really coming along. But the budget—not so much. As I’ve stated in other posts, I did manage to write when I worked full-time. I’m sure I can do it again. I’m just whining.

I don’t want to make a habit of whining, because it’s annoying and counterproductive and all of that. But I thought I’d try it out today anyway. I can see the sign: Warning! Do not enter. Dare I go down that road? Maybe—just this once!

There! I definitely feel better already! I didn’t travel far.

So why did I title this post My Calendar?

Here I am, still making big payments on my MFA, retired from teaching, and working for peanuts. I mean, I like peanuts (I even have a Peanuts calendar given to me by my adorable Southern relatives. You saw the picture.), and I like challenges, but I don’t understand why the skills I’ve worked so hard to hone are worth so little.

Go figure.

blogpictures 004And then I look up at my chalkboard and think about my friend, Ken Decroo,

and his wonderful advice. “Three pages a day, no matter what.”

Rather than, Online Shift 9-2 and Course Instruction 3-6, I’d like to write the following notations in my weekly calendar: Work on novel, Attend weekend writing workshop, Write, Go to writing group, Write, Complete another writing course, Write query letters, Write, Find an agent, Submit manuscript, Write, Get published, Write, Leave for book tour…

And I can do most of those things. I can choose my own road. So, guess what? I’m going to quit one of those jobs today. Right now. And get back to writing. Hope to meet up with you somewhere along Writers’ Way!

That’s all.

IMG_1197That, and Mahalo!!!

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1 Tactic That Will Help You Grow Your Following: Meet and Greet

Dream Big, Dream Often

imagesWhat day is it??!!  Meet and Greet Day!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So don’t be selfish, hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags (i.e. reblogging, reblog, meet n greet, link party, etc.), it helps, trust me on this one.
  4. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new bloggers to follow.  This helps also, trust me.
  5. And if you leave a link and don’t follow me, how about ya show ole Danny some love?

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and meet n greet your butts off!

The Reblog post will publish at…

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Scanxiety

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I belong to an appendix cancer support group, and one of the non-words I see quite often in posts is scanxiety, a condition related to the anxiety felt about medical scans that are given regularly for an indefinite amount of time after cancer treatment. In the beginning my scans were spaced three months apart; now they are six months apart. I’ve gotten good at coping with the anxiety nowadays (four years post diagnosis) most of the time, but when I get to the day before testing, as I have today, I find my mind casting away from anything productive.

My creativity is gone. I can’t concentrate on writing my novel or even reading someone else’s novel. I want to talk about it, but I don’t want to sound like a hypochondriac. I don’t want to seem negative. I don’t want to be told not to worry, everything will be fine. Even though I know it probably will be.

IMG_0679 This photo depicts my usual outlook on life, and was taken on my beloved mountain. This is not to say that I don’t love, love, love Wisconsin!

The thing is, I’ve never gotten over that initial out of nowhere diagnosis. I can only say that I feel vulnerable to invasion, or worse, that I feel like an unknowing host. I don’t understand cancer. There are so many different kinds of cancer, so many different treatments, so many different outcomes. Mine, Goblet Cell Adenocarcinoid Cancer of the Appendix, is supposed to be quite rare. It doesn’t seem so rare when I read the stories in my support group.

Sometimes I think I should drop out of the group; it reminds me daily of something I should not dwell upon. I believe in the power of positive thinking, and maybe reading the very real cancer stories, takes some of my shine away. But I also think that I should buck up—you know, be there for those who ask for a prayer or just need to vent and need to know someone out there really hears them.

I rarely participate in any length, usually just a word or two. Others in the group are much better at knowing what to say. Quite a few of them even offer up-to-the-minute cutting edge medical information, where the best hospitals are, how to connect with an appendix cancer specialist, the ins and outs of health insurance, tumor markers, treatment experiences—all sorts of really important information. I can’t help but feel I haven’t found a place of usefulness within the group.

And here I am tonight, inexplicably sad about the way that cancer changed my life and knowing I might be able to get some help from the group if I could just express myself without sounding like an infant. Most of the posts I read are written by or for those of us who are currently in the throes of the worst of the disease—those reeling and just diagnosed, those going in for their 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th surgery. Those who are in palliative care. The loved ones of those recently passed who write to break the news to the group.

And here I am feeling pretty darn good. I am one of the lucky ones. Makes me feel like a phony just wallowing in a selfish bout of survival guilt. And yet. And yet I am sad. Sad that my life changed so drastically since my initial appendicitis attack. The appendicitis that turned out to be hiding cancer.

Four years ago I was a teacher living on a mountain, surrounded by family, friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors that I loved. My four grandchildren all lived within a few miles of me.

That is not to say that my life is not good today, but it has changed dramatically. I miss my old life. I miss my kids. The circumstances of my life after cancer and my second surgery have impacted almost every aspect of my personal life and my career. Not all of it is bad, but some of it is. I’m not going to lie.

Paris to home 2013 085

Sometimes survival calls for sacrifice, or at least that’s the way I’ve come to wrap my mind around it. Maybe it’s nothing as noble sounding as that. Maybe I just got lazy. Teaching, one of my great passions, had always required great energy, energy that I no longer seemed able to summon. I was eligible for retirement. My husband needed work and found a good position in another state. My tumor marker tests showed increasing evidence of cancer at the cellular level, yet my scans were clear.

I’m not sure what tipped the scale and brought us to this new place. Maybe it was down deep merely an urge to run, something I’d done plenty of times in my earlier years. Grief over my brother’s death, financial hardship, chemo-brain, depression, debilitating chronic health issues, fear of recurrence…all of these things and more must have played a part. I only know for sure that the world changed after my diagnosis.

That’s the thing about cancer. It sneaks up on you. I had no idea that I had cancer until I went in for my post-operative check after my appendicitis surgery. And that’s probably the root of my malaise. If I didn’t know I had it then…

Scanxiety.

I’m grateful for what I have; I still have love and family, however far away some of my loved ones are, and I will be forever grateful for what I have had. Nothing can take that away.

Mahalo.GrandmaJazz

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 The Art of Living: The Art of Writing

I’ve been working on my third novel on and off for several years now. It occurred to me just now that I’m back at it after a month or so hiatus with renewed energy and even a sense of urgency. It’s not always that way. I guess if it were I’d have the initial draft completed at the very least. If someone asked me why I hadn’t written much lately, before thinking about it as I am now, I’d have said something about my new jobs, my husband’s emergency surgery, or maybe even the dog days of summer.latesummer2015 050

All of those things, and many more, affect my writing schedule, and perhaps more to the point, my creative energy level. But none of it is really time off as long as I get back to the “art” within a reasonable amount of time.

The jobs will allow me the luxury of buying writing supplies (Am I the only person horrified at the exorbitant cost of ink?) and of getting out of the cottage now and then to experience the living world and its people and cultures in the flesh.

My husband’s surgery gifted me with three weeks of total marital bonding time. It wasn’t that I was nursing him or waiting on him hand and foot as he waited for a diagnosis, underwent surgery, and then recovered, it was that we were together for three weeks straight, pretty much night and day. Like a really romantic vacation except he was in pain and on strong painkilling medications and he needed me to drive him everywhere.

I tried to write while he was in the hospital. I set up a little office in his hospital room (which was nicer than many hotel rooms we’ve stayed in—the towers at St. Luke’s in Milwaukee are fabulous!). But I didn’t write a word.

Part of St. Luke's 8th Floor Serenity Garden

Part of St. Luke’s 8th Floor Serenity Garden

Instead, I often climbed into bed with him, bringing a tray of snacks and the daily stack of funny and loving cards his many friends and family sent to wish him well. As his astute and talented young doctor told him a few days after surgery, my husband “is a beautiful man.”

Back at home I thought I’d write, but I was immersed in training for one of the new jobs, which was all done online. The online aspect temporarily morphed my beloved writing corner, desk, and laptop into a place of commerce rather than creativity. Gone were the stacks of notes and historical and creative writing books usually piled somewhat neatly at hand’s reach, replaced by technical manuals and handbooks. I found that once I finished the technical simulations and study required for the day I was more than happy to leave my little corner.

Then the dog days of summer really hit, and with them a disturbing lack of interest in anything. I am not a lover or heat, humidity, or mosquitos (I think I’ve mentioned the mosquitos before in other posts…); I seem to be biologically unadaptable to any climate where the temperature soars over 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Diesel cools down on Dog Days

How Diesel cools down on Dog Days

Cats never look hot.

Cats never look hot.

I simply cannot think or get excited about anything when I sweat.

I buy Off! by the case.

I wear ridiculous scanty clothing. The very thought of stuffing any part of my body into fabric of any kind makes me feel faint. My preferred dog day’s “outfit” is a brown sarong trimmed in red, green, and gold ala Bob Marley that I picked up in Kauai six years ago on an anniversary trip.

It’s not even a ladies’ sarong, for goodness sakes; the beautiful Hawaiian girl who sold it to me tried to talk me out of it. You would look so pretty in this blue one, or the pink one, she said. It would have been a perfect size for Israel IZ Kamakawiwo’ole (another beautiful man). But the fabric is so light and the large size makes it so loose. I said, I’ll take it.

There were other things that happened this past month other than my husband’s health crisis, my new work, and the heat that stalled the progress of my work in progress—things on my heart and mind that I’m keeping close. These things will eventually, somehow find expression and maybe even relief as part of my fiction.

The events of the past month, I find, didn’t really get in the way of my “art” at all. One of the wonderful things about writing is its permanence. The writer never stops writing, not really. Every experience, every sensation, adds another scene or scrap of a scene to be processed by the imagination and filtered through the writer’s soul. I’m writing again, and in that I find great peace.

IMG_0764Mahalo.

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