Tag Archives: writing

How To Be a Better Blogger

Step 1: Blog

Step 2: Blog

Step 3: Blog

Oh, my gosh, I’ve been forgetting to blog!

In truth, I think about it often, but thinking doesn’t get it done.  Before I know it, it’s a week later and the idea flew the coop. And I have so many, ideas that fly the coop.

Right now, I’m flying a desk, trying to keep up with two online classes and two editing projects. They soak up all the extra grey matter. Or is it white matter?

Well, no matter. I will do better. Now that I’m back from actually flying around.

NYC

Downstreet view in Manhattan.

Skyline from Central Park

Skyline from Central Park

A sister yacht while on jazz cruise down the Hudson.

A sister yacht while on jazz cruise down the Hudson.

It was a bit nippy, but a welcome break from tropical heat.

It was a bit nippy, but a welcome break from tropical heat.

Thank you, dear Reader, for the moments you spend with me.

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The Pain of Thawing

Snow in New York City Photo credit: Emilia Navarro

Snow in New York City
Photo credit: Emilia Navarro

I remember. The crisp clean air, cutting through you like a knife, the painful jolt of it as it burns through and hits the lungs. The brittle blue sky dome stretching tautly overhead. The bare tree branches wrapped in brilliant crystal, nature’s luminescent ornaments. The quiet of the icy day, for though there are other’s sounds, the cold has blocked your ears.

I remember the slush on the roads, the slipping and sliding away, sideways, along the street hoping no one crashes into you while you work to concentrate, turn the wheel into the skid, yes, into the skid, pump the brakes ever so lightly. Think, think, think, in slow motion, yet it all takes no more than several seconds.

Then back on the road again, like nothing happened, until it does once more. Boots crunching on the piled snow along the sidewalks. Boots slipping on the ice, oops, bottom hitting the cold, glassy surface with a sudden sting. Bounce right back up like an Olympic gymnast. No one notices; all too busy keeping their own feet safely on the treacherous ground.

Covered from head to toe, parka snapped and zippered shut. Crocheted scarf wound tightly around neck and mouth and nose. Eyes alone braving the frigid air.

Step by step, you stealthily make your way to the warm enclosure.

And then once inside, the pain of thawing.

***For my daughter, a dear friend and all who are currently braving this brutal winter.

A Long Night’s Day

I’ve been awake since 0130. That would be 1:30 A.M.

Why, I don’t know.

Had a fun day yesterday. Dropped off this quilted tote at Tai Chi by noon. It was Chinese New Year’s again, the year of the Horse. The place was decorated so prettily for the dinner and raffle last night, I wish I’d taken a picture. Lots of red. I’d meant to stick to blues and greens for the tote, but then remembered we need red for Chinese New Year.

photo (55)photo (54)I wasn’t in the quilt-making mood so I decided a tote bag would have to do this time. The irony is that I did almost as much machine quilting, but at least it was on something different. And smaller!

 

Next we went to lunch, crab cakes, yum. Unfortunately, they were only offered fried, but oh, so good.

Then on to the movies to see The Wolf of Wall Street. My, oh my. We try to watch all the movies that are nominated for awards. This was the last one on our list, but definitely not the least. I love Leo.

Since we were full when we got to the theater I barely noticed the smell of popcorn, but when we returned to the lobby after the showing I could not resist. First time I buy popcorn on the way out of the theater.

From there we hit a place called Splitsville; it actually has a bowling alley. While we sat at the bar munching popcorn and drinking (Captain Morgan and Coke for me) the mellow sound of pins banging around floated over to us.

We passed the time chatting, with each other and with our electronics.  I’d worked on an article that was due today, and as the writer was still revising we continued our back and forth till we edited to a final sheen. Thank goodness for iPhones!

The red leather vinyl seats were so comfortable that we ended up sitting there long enough to satiate the munchies and have them return again. We ended the evening with sweet potato fries (scrumptious) and a tall glass of ice water (refreshing).

And it was an early evening. We were home by nine, but I was tired from working late the day before so I went straight to bed and crashed. For four hours.

By 1:30 I was wide awake. I spent the rest of the night reading in bed, thinking it would make me sleepy again. Not so. I spent today writing critiques for my writer’s group. Usually, staring at the computer screen for long periods will make me go cross-eyed and conk out after a while. Not today.

I kept busy all day and while putting away the fabrics I’d used on the tote, I discovered I had fabric with horses and lots of red. Doh!

photo (56)But I did sneak in some green dragon fabric, even though the year of the dragon was 2012. That is my signature. I am a dragon.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Albeit, a water dragon. Which means I douse my own fires.

Typical.

Hopefully, I can douse my wakefulness. Or should I drown it?

 

 

The I’s Have It

I chose a very ambitious path for myself this year and I have been mulling over my decisions while keeping my finger on the pause button. I haven’t exactly been idle, mind you. My brain has been working at a furious pace, while my body’s given the impression of languid ease. 

There are so many things to consider as you set forth on a new journey. Even if it’s a journey you imagined taking for years and years. You must visualize the twists and turns of the road up ahead. The inevitable forks in the road, forks not yet taken. Be ready to confront all, or almost all, the obstacles that will plop down in front of you like newly fallen trees. Find a way to sail over them. Wings, you must sprout wings.

Wings of knowledge. Wings of courage. Wings of faith.

I’ve been thinking about all this the past three weeks as I allowed myself to be consumed by a work of science fiction. While I let the story overwhelm my consciousness, my subconscious was left free to think, and to plan.

I was doing all my reading on my devices, laptop, tablet and even my phone. Wherever I was, wherever I went, I had my story with for me. But this method of reading provides one benefit that reading hard copy doesn’t: it allows you to increase the font to your liking, to increase reading ease.

And it reminded me that I needed to deal with one foggy issue. My eyes, or rather my eyesight. At my last check-up I was given a clean bill of health. Mechanically speaking. Everything was working fine, or should have been if not for one chemical variable, Gabapentin.

It was prescribed for me to treat nerve pain when I was diagnosed with shingles back in April. (Can it be almost a year? Where does the time go?) I was to take it three times a day and I did. Initially.

I was copyediting a manuscript at the time and racing to completion when all this occurred. It was through sheer grit that I managed to complete the project on time, although the author was quite supportive and understanding.

As time went on, I noticed things were starting to get really blurry. Until one day (duh), I decided to check the prescription flyer for the side effects. And there it was, in the tiniest print possible: may cause blurry vision.

Aha!

I cut my dosage down to once a day, and since it also said it caused drowsiness I took the dose at bedtime. Things seemed to clear up after a while, but not as clear as I would prefer. I blamed eyestrain, too much reading, too much computer time.

But here I was facing even more computer time, even more writing, rewriting, revising, editing and proofreading on hard copy. So while I read the sci/fi saga, my brain said: Stop.

And I did. I stopped my nightly dose and have solely continued the B vitamins also prescribed for the nerve pain. Nerve pain that by now occurs only rarely, knock on wood. Shingles leaves you in fear of its recurrence. But I say fear begone, because now on a clear day, I can practically see forever!

***

What have I been reading?

 

****

Ooops report: I was scrolling through and mistakenly hit the “like” button. I didn’t know you could “like” your own posts. Now I don’t know how to cancel it. Anybody know?

A Brand New Page

I’ve been known to move the furniture around too often, and without warning. The kids and the husband would come home late and bang their shins into something. Or else they’d drop their stuff on a table that was no longer there. Bump went the night.

Well, I’ve been wanting to move the furniture around in here for a bit but couldn’t decide  in which direction to go. And kind of dreaded what the aftermath would look like. There’s cobwebs behind, you know. Cobwebs and dust bunnies and all sorts of things. But there’s treasure, too. Long lost treasure.

I’d been trying to add pages to the previous format, but they just kept disappearing into the ether. Apparently that theme could not support several pages and when I activated this new format, Hello! there they’d been all the time.

So now I have to clean house a bit. Add a few decorations. Make things pretty and welcoming, I hope. Wish I could set up a mellow seating area, in blues and greens, where we could laze about with a cup of tea. Chat, about anything and everything.

Perhaps we can.

It’s my pleasure to welcome you, dear reader. Please stop by again. I promise I’ll get things straightened up posthaste.

 

Tabula Not So Rasa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When I hear the word tablet, I imagine something I used to carry to school, made up of paper. Buying a new one, or two, was like Christmas in September. I loved the feel of those silky white pages, begging to be filled with profound words and ponderous thoughts. But then I was the weird kid who felt depressed on the last day of school. While the other kids sang no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks, I walked home dejected, scuffing my already scuffed shoes in the loose soil on the way home.

I would count down the last days of the term with a sense of increasing dread. The summer loomed hot and vast. The chore list would expand exponentially cutting down severely on my reading and writing time. For during school I could claim I was doing “homework”.

Conversely, I would count up the calendar days leading to the first day of school. My mood would swing up, up, up toward the no longer blazing sun and shopping for school supplies was way more thrilling than shopping for clothes or shoes. Who cared what covered my body? It was what uncovered my mind that mattered. And writing was one way to delve into the deepest part of my psyche. Writing was what helped me deal with the realities of life that were thrust on me much too soon.

It was always an adventure when I put pen to paper. I never knew what would materialize onto the silk that was the page. What words would spring into existence simply by the power of my mind. My parents did not understand, or accept, my need to read and write. To my mother, it was an unhealthy vice. Not only would it make me go blind, but it kept me from my never-ending chores.

My siblings did not get it. They only touched a book when forced.  Heck, my friends didn’t get it either. My girl friends were more interested in boys and my boy friends were more interested in being my boyfriend.

I was more interested in the dynamics of behavior. The observation. What made people do what they did? Yes, I was a weirdo to all. And I reveled in my weirdness. A badge of courage. A badge of distinction, for I was distinct all right. A square peg refusing to fit into a round hole. A misfit

But it appears I am no longer a misfit in my world. My family not only accepts my need to work with the written word, they support it, and most of all encourage it. Amazingly. And one concrete way of showing that was to gift me, you guessed it, a tablet.

This tablet has no pages; instead it has a smooth backlit screen. It has the ability to do just about all that my laptop can do and is far more portable. It can even hold my entire Kindle library, no mean feat, and no more running out of triple-A batteries for my reading light in the middle of the night.

Because of their faith in me and my writing, I have been trying to get comfortable with its keyboard. Their vision being that I can carry this tablet with me and write wherever I am. But this is not an easy thing to do since my fingers are used to a regular keyboard. One that is not so touch-sensitive, and one that has all the keys I need in one flat layout. One flat, longer layout.

But I am nothing if not persistent and though typing with only a couple of fingers has been hard, I have managed to tap out this entire post on said tablet. And though it’s taken triple the time, it appears to have let me probe deeper into my sentience. Perhaps because my brain was more concerned with the technicality of writing and therefore successfully quashed my internal editor for a bit.

Or perhaps it is simply the fact that I feel freer composing on a “tablet” once again. And there is much to compose for it is true that I am no blank slate. I have been written on for quite some time.

A Little Bit

Today is my sister’s anniversary. 51 years of married life. I can hardly comprehend that. That’s almost as long as I’ve lived on this earth.

We don’t keep in touch. She lives far away. All my sisters live far away. We don’t keep in touch, ever.

Sometimes that feels strange to me, and at other times, I don’t think about it at all. It just is.

But this wasn’t what I planned to write about. 

I planned to write about guilt. One type of guilt, for there is always a variety of it to go around.

As I go through my entries on this blog, and  compile those I might possibly use, all sorts of memories are being triggered. Some memories have nothing to do with RA, while others send me headlong into the world of constant pain that I lived in for what I assumed would be forever.

There’s no denying that RA changed me. It changed my outlook on life. It changed my ability to function, productively as well as effectively. It changed my career and career focus. It changed the trajectory of my future.

But looking back from ten-plus years, for I really do not know when this dis-ease arrived, I cannot say it is a bad thing. Not entirely.

I have benefited from the care of a wonderful doctor, who puts up with my self-treatment and self-diagnosis. Perhaps my intimate involvement with my treatment process has meant the difference. For though I no longer practice in the field, I cannot stop being a nurse. I cannot stop wanting to bring wellness to those whose lives I touch.

I have seen the depths and I have seen the light, to use one worn out cliché. And because of that, I feel guilt.

Guilt that while others suffer excruciatingly from this ailment on a daily basis, I am forced to agree with my doctor’s mantra. “You are doing very well,” he says to me after every visit.

And I am. I feel better and more mobile than before RA checked in.

I’m not really sure what I have done to make this happen. From the research of my writings, both posted here and those still tucked away in my journals,  I suppose I will find out, glean some sort of insight. Is it diet? Is it exercise? Is it love? Is it companionship? Is it finding like-minded friends to talk to? Is it knowing that people out there care about me? Is it caring for others? Is it all of the above?

I know that the treatment for RA is not a one-size-fits-all. But perhaps my story might help. Just a little bit.

 

About This Blog

I started this blog a long time ago. At first, I wanted to record and share how I dealt with RA. But then it hit me. It shouldn’t be about how to live with RA. It should be about how to live in spite of RA.

Every day I wake up and test the waters, so to speak. I don’t dip my toe in, rather I grab air with my hands. Most days I can grab a handful and make a fist. And then there are those days when I cannot. Even ignoring the pain doesn’t allow me to bend my fingers.

On those days it can take hours, sometimes four or more hours, before my hands loosen up and my fingers become pliable. This doesn’t mean I can’t do anything at all during these hours. It just means I can’t do anything that requires fine motor skills. I can’t go about using my rotary cutter to cut quilt pieces, or even chop vegetables, unless I want to run the risk of losing a finger, which I don’t.

Sometimes I look at my hands and remember all that they have done. From doing the simple, ordinary care for my own children to performing the intricate procedures required of me during my nursing life. I can no longer depend on my hands to allow me to function in that capacity. And it’s something I miss terribly. I was good at it, dammit!

But RA cannot take away my interactions with others. It cannot stop me from giving to others. It cannot prevent me from helping others, in whatever way I can.

This blog allows me to give, and take. It allows me to share and be part of a community. It gives me much satisfaction to learn from others and to share what works for me, what helps me. Though I do wish I had the answer to one of the most searched items on this blog: how to keep fingers from going crooked from arthritis. How I wish I knew the answer to that. I wish I had the secret potion. But, I don’t.

All I know is that we must stay active, our bodies as well as our hands. We must beat this uninvited adversary at its own game. If it takes motion away from us, we must stay in motion, always. And so besides exercise, I crochet, I sew, I quilt, I type, I write, and I blog about all those things. Perhaps at the risk of giving this blog a “flight of ideas” feel to it.

But all those activities not only help my body and my hands, they also help my spirit. Most days when I look at my hands, I see not only what they have done, but what they can still do.

On This Earth

A writer I much admire once wrote, “. . . waiting is the tense in which life is truly written.” Those words struck a chord with me when I read them three years ago. They’ve never left me. And sometimes when I am sitting in my rheumatologist’s waiting room, I think of how true those words are.

Reading Billies’ excellent post on waiting reminds me I meant to write about my time spent in that waiting room. While I was there in May, I came to the hard decision of looking for another doctor. Though things flow at a creeping pace at this office, I arrive on time at 3:30 p.m.

At 5:00 p.m. I see the front desk receptionist walk by me with her purse. She hasn’t yet taken my co-pay. I’d signed in and exchanged pleasantries with her and then taken my seat in the crowded waiting room. Deep into my reading, I only entertain a passing mental query as she goes by. After all, there is other staff.

At 5:30 p.m. the tech who does the preliminary workup, vitals and the dreaded weigh-in, sees me through the open sign-in window. “Did they pull your chart?” he asks.

I shrug my shoulders. How do I know?

He walks around and opens the door for me. “I’m sorry,” he says, as he escorts me toward the back. He chats with me as he works, asking how my writing is going. Fine, I say.

Before I’m shown to an exam room, I have to go up front and give my co-pay. “I can’t take a credit card. It’s after five,” says the young girl left at the front desk.

I shrug again. Not my problem. I’ve been there more than two hours by then. Somehow she gets it done.

I text my husband: “Two hours and haven’t been seen.”

“Unacceptable,” he fires back.

Sometime after 6:00 p.m. the PA comes in and makes himself comfortable. He takes an extensive history, dating from my last visit two months previously. He conscientiously taps onto his laptop my every utterance it seems. He asks me how to spell a word; I tell him. “I hate English,” he says with a sheepish grin. “It has its quirks,” I say.

He spends over 30 minutes with me, typing, chatting. I feel like I’m with family, the whole process is so familiar. With a shake of the hand he leaves me to my reading and waiting.

Around 7:00 p.m. my doctor walks in; smiling, he extends his hand towards me. He’s always smiling and he always shakes my hand. “How are you doing?” he asks. “Sorry about the wait.”

“It’s OK,” I murmur.

He meticulously reads what the PA wrote, then reviews certain comments/complaints. Satisfied with my responses, he asks me to step up onto the exam table.

He bends every one of my fingers by turn (ouch), then has me lie back and proceeds to bend my legs, my arms (no problem there), and listens to my heart, my lungs. He guides me to sit up and then checks my eyes and inside my mouth searching for RA’s sidekick, dryness of the mucous membranes. All checks out and he goes back to the desk. I step down and go sit across from him.

He checks his phone researching something for several long minutes, then comes to a decision regarding my current medications. He goes over the protocol with me. “You’re doing very well,” he says with that smile.

Returning his smile, I lock eyes with him for a moment. We are coming to the end of this slow-moving ballet we’ve engaged in for almost a decade.

And I remember why.

Because of him, I remain here, on this earth.

We shake hands and I make my way to the front desk. I schedule my next appointment, then exit the office. It is now 8:00 p.m.

Written for: Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

In So Many Ways

I’ve settled into a Tuesday and Friday Tai Chi class routine. Granted it’s only been one week. But it feels good. I’m renewing friendships and meeting new people. I met the lady who won my Native American Culture themed quilt at the raffle. (See my post, Done!) She was ecstatic and stopped the class to verify I was the quilter. “I love it!” she said. Talk about a shot in the arm, gave me renewed vigor to finish the class.

I’d wondered if my legs would hold up. It’s all a matter of shifting your weight from one leg to the other as you dance your way through the 108 moves. All this weight-bearing helps build bone, something mighty useful to me now. But I needn’t have worried, my legs remembered. They held up admirably, while the rest of me had a harder time remembering some of the hand moves.

Though they started the same week, these classes are independent of each other. That means that on Friday I get to repeat what I learned on Tuesday. This works well as I am a perpetual beginner, having yet to complete all 108 moves. Monday and Wednesday classes start in two weeks and I plan to take those too.  There’s nothing like reinforcement. And camaraderie.

And I have another reason for taking all these 10:00 AM classes. They will help me to structure my day so I can fit the most into it. Freelance editing is occupying more and more of my time, and that’s a good thing. But working from home, I’ve let myself maintain a non-schedule schedule, working all hours of the day or night. There’s been no clock to punch, and no boss but my lenient self. As long as the deadline is met, your client doesn’t care when you work.

But now, I need to adopt a daily discipline so that I can accomplish all I want to do. Such as my own writing (my WIPs won’t write themselves, sigh), and then there’s my quilting. I do want to keep up with it, and I plan to make a bunch of children’s quilts for the homeless shelter our Tai Chi Branch supports. For Christmas.

So you see, Tai Chi to the rescue. In so many ways.