Catching up

It has been a rough winter – I think I’ve mentioned that – so darned cold that the urge to hibernate is very strong. Good thing I went gluten free…I’d probably be in a sugar coma by now.

Smashwords is coming along, I’ve put up my books that had already been on amazon, and have been transcribing, editing, and putting up other stories in “episodes” that are there, and not on amazon. I’ve realized that I should never again write longhand, because while it *is* fun to scribble in a notebook and look erudite – I really have a hard time typing from my handwriting. Sad face, ha ha….

It’s snowing pretty well right now, a change from what we’ve had so far this winter: brief snow squalls, bone chilling cold, and then random warmer days with pouring rain. If I complain about the heat this coming summer, someone please thump me…but today’s weather is coming from a “warmer” place, and won’t be followed by the so-called polar vortex afterwards. Thank goodness.

Life is draining at the moment, too. If you have read any prior posts, you might have picked up that our one son is autistic. He had a rough summer with his sleep getting all out of whack, and things were feeling very hard – on him especially, because I could sense (agonizingly) that something was wrong, but I didn’t know for sure what or how to help. After a while, it seemed that it might be as simple as him getting another hour or so a night – and we started melatonin.

Now, I did and do think hard on the ethics of medicating a child, much less doing so without really knowing if he likes the idea – but I’ve told him a few times that it’s to help him get better sleep (and his pediatrician who has been with him since birth is the one who suggested it) – and I think sleep is something he likes (don’t we all? that feeling of lounging in the bed drowsily, especially), and notably, the behavioral issues that had been surfacing have dwindled back down to a baseline of nearly zero.

That was important – he is a kid who has always been very cheerful, very positive, very lovey – and we were seeing a shift into territory that just didn’t match who he is. We also did a sleep study, and man, he charmed the pants off the nurse – and was way more patient with the probes and tape and goo than most adults would have been, let alone a “neurotypical” peer. He had stuff all over his head, and didn’t blink an eye – would not have been the case when he was little, I think – whereas I, sleeping on a foldout lounger tossed and turned, and was a wreck the next day. Zombie mommy.

He’s also been a lot more sick this fall/winter, as has his brother. We had cut out the use of chemical cleaners several years ago, and use 7th Generation stuff – and most years, they have had one cold each – this year, the respiratory gremlin is on our case. It keeps coming back – I think I may have run through a case of mild pneumonia back in November (no, really, I was still running…lots of inhaler usage).

And now? Now is spent trying to keep both kids positive, when it’s been too cold to be outside – they never want to do homework – older kid doesn’t want to go to school – SpEd teacher is having too many personal issues to do her job well, I guess – and in the middle, I’m trying to write, market, read Rapid Prompting Method teaching, read to them, do all the household stuff, run, keep my DH from losing his mind in the winter murk (every year, I tell him, this happens every year…), and then try to keep my own head right.

But see…even though it’s daunting, and there are never enough hours in the day, I still am trying my damndest to keep going. “Just keep swimming” – that sort of thing. It’s lonely at times, but that might not ever change, so I’ve got to be ok with me. I’m not ever going to give up – not on trying, not on being a dippy idealist, not on loving people, not on hope for the future. NOT going to happen.

Don’t you give up either. And if you need a high five, or a hug, let me know.

What we’re reading now:

Forge – Laurie Halse Anderson (with my pre-teen)

Matilda – Roald Dahl (with the goofy 8 yr old)

A Red Herring Without Mustard – Alan Bradley (me, in 5 minute bursts)

Developing Communication for Autism Using the Rapid Prompting Method – Soma Mukhopadhyay

Write, Publish, Repeat – Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt

Quick post

I’m very busy scrambling to change cover art (and make sure the right ones are properly attached to books – just had a mixup that needed to be fixed, ugh!), and get things loaded onto my new snazzy (hoping I get accepted into the catalog)….

SMASHWORDS

Please go take a look – the first book in the RSI series is free to read!

The second book is available there as well, as will be the first book in the Sleep trilogy soon (as soon as I can get the file fixed up and transferred to the website).

Sometimes

There’s a sense of being tired all the time during the winter. I think the folks who live in the Arctic region must have come up with ways to cope…or maybe all the fish consumption has something to do with it. If you ever watched Northern Exposure, though, you might recall the episode with Ruth Ann and Walt using the SAD light therapy visors – and Walt gets completely addicted.

It’s human nature to look for the simplest solution – with sometimes unintended results.

Personally, I woke up a few years ago and realized that winter was not my friend as far as mood is concerned. Maybe you feel the same way. Childhood memories were colored somewhat, and it never made a lot of sense, but fall was just brown, for instance. Not crisp, or leafy, but muddy and redolent of the unpleasant sensation that everything was dying.

Winter was grey, bleak…there are no specific memories that I can recall to even distinguish one year from the next. Most of my memories reside in summer. Perhaps it’s that way for everyone. I’m a little terrified that my kids will end up feeling the same way. This time of year finds them crying about Monday mornings. Even the adults are having trouble getting out of bed without a lot of drama…I won’t mention any names.

The trouble is, you can only try to keep a firm grip on your own sanity. No matter how hard you try to get everyone else into a better mood, it never works. And then your mood takes a hit.

I’m thinking about smile therapy…? Laughter yoga? What else is out there?

For me, a big part of the battle was adding omega 3 and vitamin D into my life. (Fish is just not a part of my diet, no matter how much I wish I liked it.) Forcing myself to exercise is another piece of the strategy. I say “force”, because this time of year means that I’m still outside running, and it’s a HUGE mindgame to get out there and deal with cold.

What do we do about our loved ones, though? How do we help them get through the darker (seriously!) times of the year? Aside from visiting our relatives in Mexico or California, that is….

On reading topics (writing as well), I’ve been reading Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt’s Write, Publish, Repeat, and feeling the sense of new ideas leading to better *strategy* – plans and writing all making a little more spark. Older son and I are into Laurie Halse Anderson’s Forge (the sequel to Chains), and it’s just into the denouement of the Battle of Saratoga. She’s an excellent writer, and you ought to check her out.

I don’t know what to hope for from the groundhog, but that’s months away anyhow. Just a glimmer of hope, the light in the darkness, anything that might help. It just seems a little weird that I’m the only girl round these parts, and am the most even keel….

New year, new things

The mercury has been zipping up and down in our part of the country. A few days ago, it was -13, and here we are today with the high at 55. It feels mildly schizo. And it’s rough on the motivational side of staying sane. I had to beg for new, warmer running gear for the rest of the winter, for instance. One recent run ended with purple toes. Not like, lavender, or bluish, no. Deep dark purple. Hadn’t even noticed they were completely numb until I jumped in the shower (because it was right before Christmas and there was NO TIME for cooling down), and then an ear-piercing yell later, realized what was up. I’d post a picture, but that kind of thing is icky, let’s be honest.

Big kid and I finished Breaking Stalin’s Nose, which is a pretty swift and completely unsettling story. It’s like reading 50’s sci-fi, until you realize, no, this sort of thing actually went on. In the 50’s. On and on. Then my husband and I started watching the Aldritch Ames mini-series, as well as the remake of House of Cards, which is really excellent, by the way. The original, with Ian Richardson playing the role Kevin Spacey now so ably occupies, was just as unsettling.

I wonder what it is about those sorts of stories that draw us in so well? Is it the act of drawing back the curtain to view the inner workings? Perhaps. All at once, we know it is true, and yet it isn’t. By that, I mean there are small pockets of people who function in such bubbles of reality, but that they cannot exist outside their small realms. That’s why I tend to read dystopian or utopian setups with a certain amount of salt dashed across. There is push and pull from extreme to extreme, but we (perhaps being 70% water?) tend to follow gravity and established routes.

I think that’s why dictatorships are successful mostly in small pockets as well. Without going into some dissertation-style talk, I’ll just theorize that the sheer volume of the USSR was what “doomed” their particular experiment. People will be oppressed and led by the nose, sure, but not everyone – so with the inertia in the middle, the oppressors on one side, and the resistance on the other, eventually the push and pull will set everything back into the middle territory, even with a lot of war, strife, and instability in the meantime.

So yes, I discount the notion of a global dictatorship. One such as in, V for Vendetta, now that might work for a bit longer, except you can’t count on previously stalwart, fiercely independent, somewhat volatile people to suddenly settle down and be docile because they’re scared. Here in the US, there’s a lot of factionalizing and partisanship over who’s really a “patriot”, what constitutes being a True American (say that in your head however you like, it still doesn’t carry gravitas)…well the list of who’s better than whom could go on a long time.

Realistically, we’re a nation founded on restlessness, low attention span, impulsivity, and willingness to chuck aside our Sunday papers in outrage when Something Bad Happens…by golly, we’ll go make it right. As long as it’s in a place where there’s a good reason to be. But that’s another discussion. The official line when we go overseas to bring truth, justice, and democracy to those who need it (whether they want it or not) – is that we are winning hearts and minds. Depressing, but true.

But here, in the homeland, in spite of our pioneering ways, our desire to pull up stakes and move around every five years, and our insatiable desire to read headlines instead of knowledge…people are pretty much ok. Not great, not terrible, but ok. I have a feeling I’m pretty much ok, because frankly, I don’t have a ton of energy left over from trying to turn my kids into something better. On one hand, there is a long list of what I’d like to eventually do, if I ever have any time or mind for it…on the other is the desire to lie around and eat chocolate. Admit it, we’re all pretty much the same. And it’s ok, because once in a while, we manage to actually cross something off the list…and then we go and have a piece of chocolate for a reward.

The difference lies in what you do when the pressure is on. The distillation process, if you will. We all know, deep down, what we would do if push came to shove – some of us would do as the neighbors in Eugene Yelchin’s tale do, rat out the guy next door, because then we can have his apartment. Even though I am a bit of a cynic, and I know that those people are out there, and I watch for them as I would an approaching hyena…I believe that they are the minority, and that we’d get the pull back to moderation from the opposing force on the other side. It just depends on how big the inertia mass is, I guess. How many of us would do absolutely nothing?

I’m one of those impatient, distractable, passionate American types…I know what I believe I’d do, where I’d be, and it wouldn’t be sitting around, but it’s a large unknown, isn’t it? The US is a varied, enormous patchwork quilt of people who often forget about the rest of the country (I live in a state that some parts of the country believe is a myth) – much less the rest of the world – but we aren’t (all) bad people, any more than anyone else is (I’m pinching my fingers to keep from listing any dissenting examples). The Soviet people weren’t all bad. North Koreans certainly aren’t…just their strange dictator is.

Obviously this is just my meandering brain going down the route illuminated by the books and tv we’ve had around here (my husband binge-watched the Tudors over the holidays, while I gnashed teeth over the state of womanhood in those days) – life is so uncertain and weird at times…we can’t help but sit and have little philosophical discussions to try and sort it out. That said, opinions welcome….

The caprice of December

You think to yourself, “I’ll just get some stuff done,” and then find yourself alphabetizing the dvd collection. You need to wrap presents or mail stuff from the post office (which is a mile away, but really hard to get in and out of), but end up scouring the internet for the best prices on anything from Hiwa Kai Hawaiian black salt to books or chia pets, I don’t even know anymore. You might even be 12 windows deep into looking at all the videos on Upworthy.com

The weather is fickle, 50 degrees one day, 13 the next. Germs are running rampant because we’ve all finally had to close up, crank the heat, and sit stewing together in our crockpot living spaces. My friends talk on facebook about the latest plague to descend on their families, and I find myself wanting to wear a germ mask, gloves, and wipe down the computer. I think one might actually be able to trendspot and track illnesses just by paying attention to those things…not that I have…yet.

My kids and I have started Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. The 8 year-old wants to read out loud too, so I have to keep reminding him to speak clearly, or his brother won’t understand what he’s saying. And they only seem to want to be indoors right now (can’t blame them too much), unless snow is falling…and then they want to be out there long enough to get completely soaked, possibly filthy, and come storming back inside, while I’m yelling, “Stop!!! Stay right there, stay in the kitchen and take everything off!”

Then they want hot chocolate or cider that usually ends up not getting drunk. Then movies. Or video games. Can friends come over? Not unless the house gets tidied, which is boooooring. But I can’t deal with someone else’s kids coming in, only to go home and casually inform on us that the sink is full, or there’s evidence that none of the males in our house have very good aim (AHEM), or possibly that the sheets don’t seem to be different from the last visit. I know, I know, I’m being paranoid and (probably) giving 8 year-old boys too much credit.

Above all else, the capacity to write is just not there, when there’s far too much else to be done this time of year. Lacking focus for that, I’ll just satisfy myself with reading and keeping up with this, I suppose. Shopping is pretty well done, we’re skipping some of the previous years’ falderal to keep things calmer and simpler – I just need to get soy-free things for my sister’s stocking, gluten free for me, and salmon jerky for my husband 🙂 Except….

I’ve got to print a load of scanned letters to make my mother’s gift – going to put them into portfolio books, rather than get a book printed – they’re her dad’s letters to his parents during WWII, and her mom’s letters to her dad…mysteriously, all his to her didn’t survive the passing of the years…though one of the ones she wrote perhaps illuminated why…I rather think he was very bold in the things he said to her. Ahem. The wording was different, and it’s one of the few letters I will omit, as I’m sure nobody wants to think of their parents that way, but as they were my grandparents, and they’ve both passed…I found it both shocking and amusing.

We need to think of some family traditions to have every year. More and more, holidays and occasions sneak up, and I feel no inspiration or creativity to do fun, or figure out how to make memories. It’s the only frustration hanging around this year. We let Halloween slip by with no pumpkin carving…hopefully we’ll do better this year.

My husband’s company party is this weekend, and while I have a dress, there’s nothing else…nothing but a snowstorm headed our way. No, really. It’s supposed to start around the same time as the party…at least the thing will be at a hotel this year. And, in that light, maybe I don’t need shoes? Hmmm?

This weekend will also mark the year anniversary of a pretty dark day in our state. Sandy Hook. The families just did a memorial project – and they’re asking everyone to stay away (that they had to ask is indicative of our far too intrusive and judgey society). I think it won’t be a problem for most of us not to have a ton of rehash over it. I’m glad there will be a storm and a party to distract, because the whole thing was just…awful.

My dad is an Episcopal priest – his assistant is a state police chaplain, who went down to do family notifications, and then found himself counseling first responders. Things like Sandy Hook send out ripples and keep extending far beyond those who survived, witnessed, responded, counseled…I saw him right after he got back from Newtown. He looked like he’d been through a storm, and had no words to express what he’d just experienced. My dad and he sat and talked through it, though. They do that; counsel one another, through loss and grief and…I know it’s a little strange, but that’s what they do.

And I remember, how a week after, the following Friday, it was raining. I’d just read that one of the children was a little girl named Joey, and she’d been autistic, like my son. I was overwhelmed with emotion, thinking about how a child like that would have felt with the screaming and chaos, praying that she hadn’t been frightened or suffered (that none of them had) – and went out to run five miles in the rain, yelling and crying the whole way.

And when my then 7 year-old told me that he’d heard the gunman was still alive and might come get them – a normal kid fear – I had to be honest and tell him that the shooter was dead. He wanted to know more, like whether this person, still practically a child himself, was in heaven or not (because everyone we know who has died is In Heaven) – I decided to say something different than Hell, which is where many people have probably put that troubled youth – I told him that God had put this boy in a quiet place, to be there for a long time where God would talk to him about the Really Bad Thing he’d done.

You may disagree with that notion, but it had a desired effect – my worry-wart of a kid stopped worrying about a boy with a gun, didn’t worry about where he was, and merely moved on to say that he thought his great-grandfather (soon to be joined by the other one two weeks later) had become a boy again in heaven and was playing with all the children who had died, to make them happy again, and keep them company until their families joined them someday.

And that’s what I still know about things, a year later. As I read the posts from the few families who have chosen to consistently share their children with us – like Daniel Barden’s family – I’m still sure that I made the right call for talking to my kid, that grief may ease…but it still feels strange to know that my grandparents all lived (only one left now) into their late 80’s or early 90’s, lost their memories and enjoyment of life (which is to say, modern medicine keeps them alive), and were ready to welcome death as a friend. Not everybody gets that. So, yes, I do hope that my grandfathers and grandma are keeping kids like those company. Any kids who have been lost in violence, really.

Light up your hopes and prayers along with your trees, people, it’s a crazy, dark world out there.

 

The days gather speed

This is what we all probably wake up to once we hit a certain point of adulthood – that we can no longer remember our childhood days, except as a snowball of moments – that if we make the mistake of putting our heads down to “just get by”…all of a sudden you make wake up to a long period of time gone by, like Rip Van Winkle.

It’s a means of getting through the tough times, of course. Ignore the bad, cling to the good. Or bury oneself in distraction. That last one, I’ve been particularly guilty of. A distinct memory does hang with me, of telling my AP English teacher that I just couldn’t deal with Richard Wright’s Native Son and WHY was she making us read it? It was so awful, so painful…yeah, duh. She told me that it was the precise reason for reading it, because it was an example of abject awfulness.

Well, without going into a dissertation on Wright’s work, and why I still wouldn’t revisit it…I’ll just say this: I’ve read a lot of difficult stuff, and have come to be okay with it – but that particular work…I cannot deal with the idea of someone accidentally murdering another human being and then concealing it as Bigger Thomas did. He chose poorly….

On the other side of the coin, I’m now reading 12 Years A Slave and reflecting on a few hundred years of ignominy. It too is a difficult thing to read and at the same time really commit to the notion that you’re seeing accounts of real events. I notice that there is a tendency in the narrative to employ genteel language of the day, which does detract from really being able to let the book gut punch you like it should. I can only imagine that the film by the same name must make up for that small thing.

But take for a moment the idea that this man, Solomon Northup, a “free man of color” was kidnapped, enslaved, sent to Louisiana, and then determined on his own that he couldn’t reveal his status. He lived for twelve years trying to puzzle out either how to escape, or how to find someone who could communicate his predicament to those who could assert that he was a free man. So, he put his head down and plunged into the life of slavery in order to get by and survive long enough to finally see an end to it.

As far as I can see, however, the worst part of any of it is not only that he was compelled to become a slave, but that when he was set free, and able to return to his home…he went knowing that he was powerless to help any of the enslaved men and women he had come to know and care for. That there were hundreds upon hundreds upon thousands in the same condition, and he was going home, while they were doomed to stay.

I’m pretty sure that, were Mr. Northup able to look around our modern age, he’d be gratified to know that we’ve come so far as we have…though I’m equally certain that he would be baffled by the push to forget…the urging that we must snowball the past and leave it behind. I have to say I disagree with that idea. To me, it’s promoted by those who would rather not be reminded of the things we’ve done so very, horribly wrong.

The scourging of the African continent is pretty well one of the worst of these, though not unequalled.

I’ve not worked on sites that included Native American burials, and the oldest of those would be unmarked by now anyway – but I did work down in northern Virginia on a few 19th century cemetery sites that included African American servants or slaves, and I’ll never forget, no matter how hard anyone might wish me to, the poignancy of seeing those graves, set apart from those with stone markers, and turned perpendicular or askew from those “Christian” burials that oriented east-west. They are nameless, forgotten to the modern memory…only once did they walk the earth, were kept suborned, serving those who rarely even thought of them as fellow human beings.

Once, I was privileged enough to have gone through a training class in the military with some extraordinary women, one of whom was the first African American female fighter pilot (think of that – in the year 2000, she was breaking new ground), another of whom is well on her way to a Lieutenant Colonel’s rank, having come up from the enlisted side. I’m in awe of both of them on a daily basis (not to mention some of the other kickass women who came through at that time with us).

But it was ONLY some 150 years ago that saw the Gettysburg Address, and the approach of the end of a war that was partly predicated on the grounds of slavery being an unjust institution. How many times did this nation have a chance to put an end to it?

And now that we are in a different time, how well will we continue to curate and handle the legacy of those days? Better than up until now, I hope.

A teeny snippet

I might only be posting this for a short time, and for my few fans – but here is the moment that I have been planning in my head for a month or so (and it’s obv more than 140c for twitter):

“Quite, yes.” He cleared his throat, trying to formulate a strategy to rescue his dignity. “Colonel Jonathan Drake, at your service. I say, I’d been led to believe that there was a Scots major who was supposed to be second in command of this place.” He lent a heavy dose of displeasure to the final two words, casting a scathing look around the grounds.

 

“And so he is. The general sent him on some personal business, which we hope has been concluded by this time. His return will be a great relief to us, I assure you.”

 

“I doubt that.” Drake smiled in a manner that caused Emily to automatically recoil.

 

“And why might that be?” Arpan was on his guard. Emily wondered whether he might be wondering the same as she; whether this was yet another trick or torment set upon them from below.

 

“Why,” Colonel Drake had not ceased to smile at Arpan, “Abington’s appointment of the major to the posting has been rejected. I am to be his new executive officer, effective immediately. The request came, you see, from on high. Higher than high.”

 

“The Guards?” Arpan looked ill. Emily exchanged a worried glance with Sir Robert.

 

“Oh, dear me, no. They had approved it, I gather, but when the Duke of Wellington sends down word, why nobody has the temerity to ignore him.”

-Copyright, Kate Gray, book 4 Chronicles of the RSI – 2013