Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Intentions

I saw something the other day that really resonated with me. It said that making New Year's resolutions is focusing in the past - changing things that didn't go right or weren't the best outcome. Instead of that, it said you should make New Year's Intentions. That's kind of a brilliant way to head into the new year with a positive attitude. So I've been rolling things over in my head and have come up with a small list as I head into the new year.

1. To be more present in my interactions. For example, more comments and fewer "likes". I have a tendency to respond with a LIKE or a click on the ♥ button. But seriously, how much extra work is it to say "That's great! Congratulations" instead of clicking a thumbs up? I want to become less passive and more passionate. It begins now.

2. More hands-on and less of what's on the screen. Electronics are necessary and I enjoy using them for fun, as well. But as I learned last month, doing crafty things are a lot of fun and I miss doing them. Scrapbooking, ceramics, painting, crocheting, gardening, maybe even learn to play piano. Who knows what I can do if I put my phone down long enough.

3. Volunteer work. The last few years, Nate has been really involved with volunteering for local charities and organizations. Now, I'm not foolish enough to think I'm suddenly going to start coordinating some big town function. That's not my style, nor do I have the energy for something like that. But I can take on smaller tasks. I'm not sure what I will become involved with, but it's definitely on my list for this year.

4. Writing. Every day. An author friend of mine wrote twenty-four books last year. My mind is blown. I haven't published a new book since 2016. I have a thousand ideas in my head, but I can't get them outlined on paper. I don't know if it's a true writer's block or if I'm just too much in my head sometimes, but for whatever reason, I haven't been writing. That will be changing. It may be a blog. It could be a book. It might be a love letter to my husband. But I will be writing more in 2018.

5. Spending more time with the people who matter and less with those who don't. I began doing this last year - cutting out ulcers from my life and focusing on the healthy people in my life. Crashing a car hurts like hell, but lingering in the wreckage is even worse. Getting away from flammable relationships is vital to survival. I will continue this in 2018.

Five intentions is probably a good number to start with, for now. As I adjust to the changes, I may add more or change things around a little, but for now, it's time to focus on these.

I encourage you to think about your intentions for 2018. What qualities and behaviors do you want to adopt this year? 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Saying Adieu to 2017

Every New Year's Eve, we have a tendency to dwell on the crappy stuff that happened that year and want to forget about it all as we head into the new year. I'm guilty of it, too.

In 2017, I lost my friend Heidi, who succumbed to the numerous illnesses that plagued her life for many years, as well as my Aunt Nette whom cancer took in June and my Uncle Leo who passed away in January. Our friend Doug also died unexpectedly this year, which has taken a toll on all of us. I eliminated some negative relationships, that while in the long run will be beneficial were still painful to me at the time. I continue to struggle with those losses. We bought three cars in 2017 due to accidents and mechanical malfunctions and, as we close out NYE, we're car-less again as the exhaust system fell apart just a few days ago. I was diagnosed with diabetes in September, which has forced me to make some pretty drastic dietary changes. Of course, we've all felt the political and social climate changes as we worked through the first year of a new presidency. It's so easy to focus on this stuff because loss always seems to have such a long-lasting effect as we work through emotions. But, I can't dwell very long. There were far too many good things that happened.

January brought me a surprise care package from my friend Amber in Alabama. We were chatting one day and she discovered that I'd never heard of some of the treats she was talking about. So, she packed up a box of goodies and sent them my way. A couple bags of chips, Grapico and a can of Buffalo Rock ginger ale made it to my house a couple days later. How much fun it was to try out new things from a different place. Thanks for a taste of the South, Amber! January also brought a visit from Shay's friend T-Dawg, who enlisted in the Navy last year. There were a couple dinners with family and a few dates with my hubby, too. The greatest part of January, however, was nailing my audition for "This is My Brave," a show designed to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. It was the beginning step in a very powerful journey for me.

In February, my youngest bird left the nest. At the time, I really thought it was the end of all the goodness and purpose I had in my life. But within a day or two, I turned his bedroom into my library/office and all was right with the world again. A new great-nephew came into the world in the middle of the month. Thanks to a nice weather warm-up, I was able to take part in a photography project with my friend Amy. Nate and I celebrated our 17th anniversary. And I got to see Dirty Dancing in the theaters again!

March was filled with work, work, and more work. And yes, this is a good thing. I still enjoy my job, so being that busy makes me feel useful and like I'm contributing something to the community. When I wasn't working, I was rehearsing for the show. It's phenomenal to me that the show was completely sold out. We even opened our dress rehearsal to friends and family and those seats also flew out of our hands at the speed of light. The actual show went off without a hitch and all our hard work was worth it. Aside from our own, lives were touched that night. Nothing has made me prouder than to be a part of such a wonderful organization.

April showers seemed to keep us pretty quiet, but they did bring Sean home to visit - which, of course, included his favorite meals and board games galore. My bestie also visited and we pulled a most-of-the-nighter watching chick flicks and eating junk food. I can handle many more months like April. Any time I get to spend time with those I love are times worth repeating.

May rounded out spring with seven funeral calls in a row, which meant an extremely busy time at work, but a nice lead-in to the summer months. I stayed busy and kept my nose to the grindstone. Nate and I did blow a little bit of money on new ink, though. This made for tattoo number 13 for me. Dillon Deville at Destination Tattoos is the man!! Hours in the chair for touch-ups, but it was so worth it. Everything looked fantastic when he finished. Nate and I also started spending some time with friends in town. After twelve years in this little town and we're finally becoming townies! I also somehow found time to take a road trip to Missouri with Shay. We took the scenic route and enjoyed discovering some out-of-the-way sights to see. I'm always a sucker for a good road trip. The highlight of the month, though, was finally getting some much needed yard work done. Thanks to help from Teri and Joe, our yucky yard was presentable again!

June is the start of FUN SEASON! Brandi and I went to see Ed Sheeran at Wells Fargo Arena. It was her fifth show and my first. With the way that ginger strums, it won't be my last. He's remarkable and I still can't get ÷ out of my head. Even now, six months later, it's on repeat constantly. Ed was quickly followed by New Kids on the Block. I only went to one show this tour, but I got to go with Ann Marie and our friend Cathy (whom I hadn't seen in FAR too long). AM came here to visit her kiddos and I rode back to Indianapolis with her. Ironically, I've seen New Kids twice in Indy now even though it's not a typical travel destination of mine. The show was, of course, fantastic, and we had a blast. AM got some Donnie love and I got Steak n' Shake, so I'd say we both won!  Later in the month, I took part in a mini-show for This is My Brave for south-central Iowa NAMI. It was a casual gathering of folks, but just as impactful as March's show and an honor to be a part of. Work was quiet most of the month, but there was so much fun everywhere else! I was incredibly thankful for these fun times since June was kind of rough emotionally.

It's July! You know what that means: Family Freedom Fest in Atlanta! This marked the third year Shay and I spent the 4th of July (and my birthday) in Georgia. There were fireworks and sparklers and burgers, oh my! I checked "Visiting a Southern Plantation" off my bucket list, as well as driving through part of Alabama. We even stopped at one of those historical markers on the way home. July is my favorite month of the year because it means spending time with friends who have become family over the years. We're always welcomed with open arms, even if my little brother Mije does shoot me in the face with a Nerf dart. (Vengeance will be mine!) July also brought us a new kitty! Months earlier, a friend of ours was fostering 1-week old kittens, one of whom was named Chaos by the Animal Rescue League. Having just lost our Chaos in December last year, I knew it was meant to be that we would adopt this Chaos, too. As the runt of the litter and having lost her mom to an accident, the odds weren't in her favor. She was bottle fed for a few weeks, then was placed with an adoptive nursing mama cat at the shelter, which helped her thrive. When the little moppet was barely two pounds, we brought her home at last. Since there could only be one Chaos and we felt it was fate that brought us together, we decided on the name Kismet. Her roly poly butt has made up for lost time and now tops the scales at nearly twelve pounds. (Time for a diet, Kizzy!) She is a true joy to have around, though (even if she has walked off with every pen and pencil I own). July also brought me progressive lenses. I was dreading the whole bifocal thing coming into it, but now that I've gotten used to them, I'm really digging the whole thing. It helps that my frames are cute.

August. Iowa State Fair. 'Nuff said. (And apparently that's all that really happened in August. I even double-checked my Facebook timeline to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. Nope! Just a quiet month.)

September started off with our town's annual Labor Day Celebration. Since Nate's on the committee, I helped out a little, too. Judging cute babies and pets in fun costumes is just up my alley! I was also contacted by a teacher at a high school about an hour away and asked to speak about writing as a career. As a kid, I always wanted to be a teacher, so this was a brief chance to fulfill my dream. Talking to the kids at Clarke County Community High School was the highlight of my autumn! Having this opportunity sparked some ideas for me and I began researching for my newest book idea. As a bonus, my Time After Time series was put in our local library this month, as well. I love the idea that people in my community are reading my creations. We rounded out September with a road trip to Minnesota for my nephew's wedding. It was 50's theme (which, if you know me, you know this is totally my thing), so our family went all out with petticoats, fedoras, and pompadours. We haven't had this much fun as a family in a long, LONG time. Add in shopping on the square in the cutest little Minnesota town, a detour through rural Wisconsin on the way home, and discovering a new (phenomenal!) place for hot wings called DSpot and I'd say September was a success!

October is my second favorite month of the year. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday because I love a good costume and candy rocks my socks! I also dig the cooler weather, the fall colors and the crunch of leaves under my feet. Since the heat subsided a little, I found myself taking a few walks. I lost about ten pounds this month, so between that, eating better and my medication, I was able to get my diabetes under control pretty quickly. My biggest fear is becoming insulin dependent, so keeping that at bay is at the top of my priorities. Another This is My Brave mini-show brought me back together with the cast (which I use loosely because these people are my people. They get me - and that's really tough to do). In an attempt to get my mental health back on track, I tried to pull away from social media a little bit, too, which meant more reading (one of my favorite activities) and writing (what I should be doing every day). Heading into November (which is National Novel Writing Month), I wanted to have a good grasp on the beginning of a story, so I spent much of the last part of October doing just that. Also? Samhain! Halloween is awesome, but it all began centuries ago as the Pagan Celtic celebration of Samhain. I became Pagan a few years ago around the time of Samhain, so it's my personal anniversary of a very freeing time in my life. As usual, I set up my annual altar with candles, fall-time decorations (like leaves and pumpkins), and photos & memorabilia of my ancestors. I've always been a big photo person, but this time of year allows me time to really connect with those who paved the path for me and our family. Me being a witch has scared a lot of my Christian family members because of their faith in Jesus, but I promise, nothing I do is dark, evil or Satanic. I just have a deeper appreciation for nature - the planet, flora and flauna, as well as the sun, moon, and stars. (Okay, mostly I just burn candles, treat ailments with homemade cures, and hoard pretty rocks. lol) Our ancestors all used to live and die by the force of the moon and seasons (think about crop sowing and reaping, livestock breeding, preserving seeds and food, etc.), so bringing that back to the present helps me feel more in touch with who I am and where I come from. Sorry for derailing a little bit from the point of the blog, but I know I have some new readers who may not understand being Pagan, so I wanted to give a brief description of what it means to me.

November hit me square in the face. Okay, maybe not November, but definitely NaNoWriMo. But then again, it always does. The point behind NaNo is to write 50k words (essentially a novel) in 30 days. There are thousands every year who do it. I, however, am not one of them. I have big intentions and start out solid, but I fizzle about 10-15,000 words in. This year was no different in that respect. It was different, though, in that I was actually able to write anything. I've struggle so hard with it in recent years because of the Lyme, that I happily claim this year's NaNo as a win in my book. I didn't win by standard qualifications, but any words I can get down at all are better than I've done in a long time. I blame the rest of November for getting me off track from NaNo. There were two more This is My Brave mini-shows and I made the decision to edit my speech a little. This was a tough task, so making it through the rewrite felt really good. (And it also offset a couple thousand words for NaNo, so there's that.) Throw in Thanksgiving travel to see Nate's family, him tossing his hat in the politics ring for a local election, and a large event I planned for work, and it's no wonder NaNo took a header. Fortunately, everything went well (except my weight loss path, that is) and overall, November was a good month. (Did I mention I'm growing out my hair?)

Here we are, the last month of 2017. There's work, of course, as well as family stuff. While Shay left the nest in the spring, he moved back in this month. Adulting is tough for all of us, but kiddo needed a soft place to land after a car accident, so here we are. He also made the official decision to join the US Marine Corps. He passed his ASVAB and physical, and is legally the property of the government as of April 2nd when he ships to boot camp. I, of course, am scared to death - that's my baby, after all. But he is psyched and excited, so that's what matters. In order to take my mind off of my fears, I decided to take up some hobbies that don't include screens. Crocheting is my first venture and I have to say, it's going well. As with everything I do, I've obsessed about it on Pinterest and pinned at least a thousand patterns for blankets, scarves and clothing I'll never make. Go figure. I just bought my first Tarot deck a couple weeks ago, and I'm hoping to take up ceramics or something else creative soon, too. Until then, the crocheting makes me happy. So do road trips, so Nate and I took one - to Texas to see Sean for Christmas. When we planned the trip, we were envisioning warm and sunny weather and an all-over reprieve from the cold bucket of suck that Iowa can be in December. Texas had other ideas. Regardless, though, the change in scenery was appreciated and nothing beats spending time with my kids. We had a really, really great time just slacking off for a few days and enjoying the no-stress environment for the holidays. An added bonus of our trip was getting to meet my sister, Linda for the first time. As many of you know, I learned in 1995 that I had two half-sisters I'd never met before. It took me far too long to find them and too long to get down to see them, but meeting Lindi and her son Michael was a dream come true. We arrived home on Christmas day to a mailbox overflowing with holiday greetings - one of which being the announcement that my nephew and his wife are expecting baby #4 in June. We rounded out the year with a holiday potluck with my extended family. Despite a snow storm, we all gathered at my cousin's house for dinner and conversation. My family may be a little nuts, but I love 'em. Merry Christmas, indeed!

In 2017 we've strengthened bonds with friends we already had and also brought numerous new friends into our lives - Michelle, Torianno, and all my Brave folks for starters. It gave us new babies (Congratulations, Crystal & Sydney!), new family members (welcome to the family, Stephanie and Lydia!), and new ventures. Sure this year has had its share of problems, but none that can't be fixed with all the good stuff that happened. As I head into 2018, I look forward to a year of intention and purpose - emotionally, spiritually, physically, and professionally. I hope to have you all along for the ride (although if my car breaks down, you may have to do the driving)!

Happy New Year!

Monday, March 20, 2017

So, I did a thing awesome, incredible, great, horribly painful, terribly sad, emotionally-disastrous thing.

I addressed my demons.

I opened the closet door, dragged out my mental health skeletons and purposely shoved them into the spotlight. Had this been at the behest of a therapist, I'd have kicked and manipulated things so that door was never opened again. Honestly, I'd been getting along really well and felt that I was managing my mental health pretty well. My medication was working, I had very few crying fits that hadn't been brought on by an episode of This is Us, and overall, I felt good. So why dredge up the past and exhume the decaying corpse of depression, you ask? To save a life. Possibly, to save many. 

A couple months ago, I auditioned for a non-profit event called "This is My Brave." It's an organization that was created by a couple of women who felt that sharing their stories of mental illness could benefit others - that storytelling saves lives. I saw the post about auditions on Facebook and thought very carefully before doing anything, but my inner superhero had a pocketful of Kryptonite for my sense of self-preservation and I threw caution to the wind. Initially, I didn't even think of how I would be affected by what I had to share; I just thought, "maybe someone can relate to what I've been throughand they won't feel alone." 

Holy. Shit. Y'all.

People warn you not to practice channeling the evil on Ouija boards, don't open paint cans in an enclosed space, and don't drive drunk. But they don't warn you about digging up old ghosts of mental illness without a therapist on stand-by. It caught me off guard, knocked the wind out of me, and I have been flailing like a turtle on its back ever since. I thought I'd dealt with this stuff and tucked the remnants in convenient, little spaces in my brain. The organized apothecary of memories has since been obliterated. There are slivers of wood and shards of glass everywhere - which is kind of ironic considering I don't really even trust myself around sharp objects at this point. (Kidding. Sort of.)

I feel like the Red Cross should be here in a tent set up outside my house with the aftermath this thing has left. Don't get me wrong - I am incredibly proud to be part of the show and I hope that my story reaches someone -- many of someones, if possible. This experience has been nothing short of amazing and I expect the compilation of all our stories will be a powerful catalyst for those who suffer from mental illness. For that, I am so grateful and I am humbled to be a part of it. I'd do it again and again if it means touching just one more person. That being said, if I'm distant and quiet, or possibly quick-tempered and edgy - this is why. I am still trying to pick up the shreds. I'm searching for stronger bottles, thicker cabinet doors, and a less combustible space to store these emotions of mine.

I will be okay. Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not even next week, but at some point, the dust will settle, the smoke will clear and the light will sparkle in my eyes again. Until then, don't walk around here barefoot; the Red Cross hasn't returned my call yet, so you're on your own for first aid.

*Author's note: I am not suicidal. I am not a danger to myself or others. I have felt very much like not being alive, but I don't want to kill myself. Please don't freak out and call the authorities for a welfare check.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Women are done...

Bear with me...long, but well worth the read. Also, this may seem like a political post, but it's really about much more than that.

People have been blowing up my timeline with propaganda regarding all the women who have come forward to make claims about Donald Trump sexually harassing them. "Why'd they wait so long?" "That happened ages ago, who cares?" "A month before the election and they're just NOW coming forward? Agenda much?"

Here's the thing: I don't know if he did or did not harass, belittle, assault, offend, fondle, grope, or rape the women who have come forward (or those who haven't). But what I DO know is that women don't come forward because no one takes us seriously when we do.

Sexual assault/harassment has always been (and will always be) an incredibly difficult thing to prove and sadly, without proof, no one believes the victim. If there aren't scratches and bruises, bodily harm or other signs of physical battery, the victim is dismissed. They're ignored. They're laughed at. They're made a spectacle of. They're belittled. They're mocked. They're called liars, gold diggers, attention whores and manipulators.

But I want you to imagine for just a minute....

And please be honest with yourself...

You're a woman in the presence of someone famous who has more money than God, and he touches you inappropriately or makes offensive comments about your body. Now, you don't know that he's done it to other women or not. You only know that he's done it to you. Maybe you work for him. Maybe you're networking with him. Perhaps he's just someone at the same event you're at. All you know is that he's rich, powerful, and has a team of lawyers who would rip you to shreds in court if you even THOUGHT of filing a charge against him. They would dredge up every boyfriend you ever dated, show every compromising photo of you they can find, and ask you when you lost your virginity. They would question how you dress, whether you've ever had plastic surgery, and most importantly, if you told that man that you didn't appreciate his comment/behavior.

Women don't come forward because this happens every day. Every. Single. Day. And nobody gives a damn. Not the police, not the courts, and certainly not this man who just tried to hug you, grab your ass, kiss you, or paw at you like some possession he just bought at Sotheby's.

Until we stop giving our power to men like this, no one will ever take us seriously. Until we stop giving them our blind eyes, our averted glances, and our uncomfortable, but tolerating demeanor, we will always be questioned about what WE did to encourage THEIR bad behavior.

Take it back, ladies. Don't let your self-doubt determine your voice. And men? Imagine your daughter, sister, mother or wife in that situation. How would you protect her? Would you protect her at all?

I don't care who you vote for in this election - that's between you and your ballot, but if you truly believe that Donald Trump (and men like him) is doing nothing wrong and that somehow all these women who have come forward are liars, you need to step back, sit down and listen up: women are done taking your shit.

Our mothers gave us life, our ancestors gave us a foundation, suffragettes gave us our voice, and I am giving you permission. No one else can decide how you are treated. Speak out. Stand proud. Be bold. Don't quit.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years

It's been 15 years, but I am certain you know exactly where you were and what you were doing. I know I can.

It's hard for me to think about that day. My kids were still so young and, as far as real life goes, I was still fairly naive. Living in the Midwest tends to create a safety net that makes us a little disconnected with things that happen elsewhere in the world. We still wave at cars as we pass them on gravel roads. We know our neighbors - if not by name, at least by face. We still tend to leave doors unlocked sometimes and we trust that our kids know where they need to be when the streetlights come on at dusk. That day changed all that for everyone.

I can't tell you what it was like for people in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., or New York City that day and I thank God that I can't. But for me, and I'm sure many others, it took away my sense of security. I locked doors again. I looked at people in public with scrutiny instead of recognition. I was more protective with my kids and where I allowed them to be - all the time, not just when it started getting dark. And I worried. Day. Night. While I slept. I worried. I still worry. As my youngest child is just weeks away from signing a contract with the U.S. Marines, I worry. With my oldest child living 700 miles away, I worry. I worry for my grandchildren who haven't even been conceived yet. I worry for friends living in big cities where this could potentially happen again. I worry. I worry. I worry.

In October 2014, my husband and I visited the 9/11 museum in New York. I'd been to Ground Zero at least twice before that, seeing it at varying stages of rebuilding and was profoundly affected each time. But to see, touch, hear, and even smell (yes, some scents never go away for those of us with empathic abilities) the relics and memorabilia from that fateful day was more than I could handle. I sat outside for quite a while after visiting the memorial and just cried. Grief? Sorrow? Pain? Survivors' guilt? A combination of it all? I can't go back there again, I do know that much. But I encourage everyone to visit it at least once in their life. 9/11 changed us all, but that museum will change you all over again in a completely different way.

As always, I honor those who lost their lives that day, as well as those who survived. I share your pain and my strength with you all.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Lyme Road

For those close to me, you probably know the transition my health has taken over the last several years. But for those who are new to my life or those who may just be on the outskirts or might not understand how my Lyme disease has affected me, I want to summarize it. It also helps me to put things down on paper so I can see the progress I've made on days when it feels like all I do is move backward.

I want to state blatantly, though, this post isn't for sympathy or for someone to tell me how strong I am. I'm not. I'm a survivor. That doesn't make me strong. Please lend your understanding, but keep the sympathy for someone who deserves it.

Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacteria (they look like little corkscrews) called borrelia bergdorferi. They are typically vomited into the body by a tick after it bites and feeds on your blood. Sometimes there's a rash and flu-like symptoms. In my case, there were not and I don't remember the bite. So, I could have had it from just a few months before testing positive, or I could've had it since I was a kid...or anywhere in between. Symptom wise, I believe I was infected somewhere between 2004 and 2007. For those who are immediately diagnosed, treatment is quick, usually simple and while the antibodies are always there, generally speaking, it's "cured" by most definitions. Testing is incredibly difficult because accurate testing has not been developed. It's a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so the fact that my tests came back positive is miraculous enough. Most Lyme patients don't get solid proof that they have it.

For those of us who are bitten and don't realize it, it turns from acute Lyme disease to chronic Lyme disease. It's also incredibly difficult to treat because the CDC does not recognize chronic Lyme disease as an actual disease. They (along with most medical doctors) believe that once a round or two of antibiotics is administered that the disease is cured. Any symptoms beyond that treatment is considered "post-treatment Lyme disease treatment" and "in rare occasions lasts more  than six months". Considering the hundreds of thousands of people with ongoing Lyme disease, this is not the case. It's not "rare" that it lasts longer than six months. Almost everyone who has been treated for Lyme disease beyond the immediate period following an infected tick bite goes on to suffer from months and years of ongoing symptoms, if not a lifetime of fighting relapses and risks of reinfection. It's important to know that while the CDC is one of the most knowledgeable sources on most diseases, for years they refused to recognize the sheer volume of patients diagnosed with Lyme disease. They hid the truth from the public, and they've hidden treatments, tests and other truths about the disease itself from those who suffer from it. I caution anyone with Lyme or if you think you may have Lyme to research as much as you can, but seek treatment from a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor. These doctors have been specially trained and certified for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and its co-infections.

Anyway, back to my truths...

Those corkscrew bacteria are Satan in a molecule. They are like teenage boys: they screw EVERYTHING. Cells, organs, blood, tissue, muscles, brain, eyes, name it and it's going to penetrate it. In the late-stage chronic lyme sufferers (like myself), when it penetrates the brain, it literally drills into the gray matter in your skull and permanently damages everything in its path, microscopically speaking. For me, it started in my thyroid and moved up my spine, through my cerebellum and into my temporal lobe. It has affected memory, hearing, speech, body temperature balance, ability to think of correct words and phrases, moods, and caused me increased sensitivity to noise, temperature and smell. I have muscle fatigue, pain in most of my joints, exhaustion in general as well as everything I mentioned above. Sometimes, I have good days. Most of the time, I'm average. But my bad days are bad. Those are when I stay in bed, limit my interaction and sleep - not just for recovery, but for the sake of saving relationships because my moods are volatile and I can't control them well. Anxiety attacks can come out of nowhere, last for hours and take days to recover from. So can bouts of rage and anger. These mood swings zap energy from me and it takes me a long time to get over them, much less the repercussions of the people who are in the path of my tornadic destruction.

It also affects my balance, my equilibrium, my organ function, my immune system, my breathing/cardio abilities, and my energy levels. You'll sometimes hear me refer to having -or not having- spoons. That's based on the Spoon Theory, which describes what many chronic illness sufferers deal with: http://www.butyoudontlooksick. com/articles/written-by- christine/the-spoon-theory/

Again...the symptoms aren't all the time...and not all symptoms at once (usually)...but my bad days can cover quite a few symptoms in varying degrees of strength.

As far as the timing of my diagnosis, I can only go off of what my symptoms were and when they developed. While depression and anxiety have been lifelong issues for me, the majority of the other symptoms began in the mid-2000s. My mother-in-law remembered me talking about being bitten by a tick in 2004 after we'd taken in some baby bunnies who'd been abandoned by their mother, and I remember picking numerous ticks off of them when we first brought them inside. I don't remember the bite, but my MIL did. By January 2008, I had dealt with several episodes of Bells Palsy (where it looks like somebody's had a stroke and half their face is sliding off their skull), which is usually a symptom of late stage Lyme. I had major health issues in 2012 when my reproductive organs began failing. I lost my right ovary in Feb 2012 to a dermoid teratoma tumor, then lost the uterus and cervix in May that year. Six months later, I went back under the knife a third time so the doctors could repair what didn't heal correctly. Menopause began shortly after that and I've dealt with numerous hormonal changes. This was also when the major mental and emotional issues began. They never seemed to get better. I blamed all the anesthesia, but as it turns out, most likely, it was Lyme related. I was finally diagnosed in 2014 at the urging of several friends, and it has pretty much consumed my life since then.

I have taken a plethora of antibiotics, both oral and intravenously. I have changed dietary habits, added numerous vitamins and supplements, hormone replacements, anxiety and depressive medications as well as hordes of natural and homeopathic regimens to help ward off the symptoms I deal with.

I have, during the course of my treatment, felt suicidal and hopeless more often than I care to admit. I also push people away who either aren't strong enough to deal with the ugliness of this disease or lack the strength of dealing with me while I fight this disease. I am incredibly difficult to love right now. I tend to keep to myself as often as possible.

Again, I don't want sympathy or pity. But I will happily take your acceptance. I'll take your attempt at understanding. I'll take your commitment to learn more about it. I'll take your proactive approach to preventing it in your own lives and the lives of your pets and children. I'm not strong. I'm not a hero. And I don't deserve your admiration for persevering through this hideous disease. But I will gladly help you learn more so you don't wind up like me.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Home is a strange word, sometimes. It can describe a hotel room for the few days of a vacation. Maybe it's referring to where you grew up. It might be your home town, or where you graduated high school.

For me, home hasn't really ever been a specific place so much that it's feeling that I'm somewhere with my people who get me.

Tonight, I'm 1,000 miles from where I live, but I am home.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Catching up

Did something today I'm not usually comfortable doing. I was taught, growing up, that you can never have too many friends. I was taught to always be nice and make room in your life for people who might need you.

Since then, life happened and I realized that's all pretty much crap. I can have too many friends. Not real ones, mind you - ones who are there through good and bad times - but those "friends" for the sake of being a number in someone's friend count? No thanks.

I got a message today from someone I knew for a number of years. We weren't ever close friends, but we did things occasionally. Over time, we drifted apart, as friends do. And a few weeks ago, in a grand sweep of clutter removal, I took her and about a hundred others off my friends list on Facebook. It wasn't personal, mind you - I just felt that our time as friends had come to an end. Today, she sent me a message, asking me to call her. Since I don't really do phone calls, I explained that and asked her what was up (making sure nothing was wrong). "Oh, nothing. Just wanted to catch up."

See, here's the thing. I put my life out there on Facebook. I wouldn't have told her anything she couldn't see there during the years we were friends. But mostly, I don't do "catching up". It's trivial, it's pointless, and I don't enjoy those types of conversations. Ask me about important things - like what my favorite childhood memory is. Or when the last time was that I felt true fear. Or what keeps me up at night. Or, maybe what it feels like to not want to end my life for the first time in 33 years.

We literally hadn't spoken in over two years, so my thoughts are, if you couldn't at least drop a note, LIKE a post, or comment on something I said, then there's not much to catch up on. I needed my friends the last two years. NEEDED them. Not just for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, but literally, physically needed their help and support. She didn't give it.

So, for the first time in my life, I used my strength and turned down an opportunity to "catch up" with an old friend. I explained that over the last few years, I've learned who my friends are and who they aren't, and considering she hadn't spoken to me since 2014, it was pretty clear to me which category she fit into. I was polite. I was to-the-point. And I don't feel guilty. I'm taking my life back.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

You did that.

My precious friend,

You are the reason I became an advocate for gay rights.

Of course, at the young age of 16, that was back before I knew what being an advocate meant, or even that gays didn't necessarily have the same rights as straights. 

Before I met you, I was raised in a politically and socially conservative home. People were good solid Christians, they didn't cheat on their spouses, men didn't sleep with other men, motorcyclists were all Hells Angels wannabes, and every Sunday night we watched the Disney Movie of the Week on ABC. That's just what we did. 

As I grew older, I didn't know anyone who was gay and out. Obviously I had gay friends, but at the time, I didn't know it. They were just either "secure in their manhood" or a "tomboy." I'm pretty sure the only time my mother ever explained to me anything about homosexuality was when I asked her the difference between being gay and being lesbian. She said, "lesbians are women." That was the extent of it.

Then I met you. You, in all your babouscka-wearing glory prancing in that parking lot donning a darling pair of boat shoes, a bouffant hair-do that made me incredibly envious, and the best sense of humor I'd ever experienced. You were out and proud of who you were, and you didn't give a damn who knew it. You didn't march in any parades, nor were you begging people to accept you as you were. You didn't feel the need to explain anything or justify yourself. You just were. You were perfectly you.

My whole life changed that day. I began opening up my mind and realizing just how closed it was in the first place. I accepted you without question because I loved you, and to me, it didn't matter who you slept with or what you stood for. I just knew you were one of the greatest friends I'd ever met. I valued YOU; the rest of the package was superfluous. 

You are the reason I am able to accept, love and support my gay daughter and everything that's important to her.

YOU did that. 

Thank you.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Spoon Theory and those who abuse it

I think some people don't understand the spoon theory as it pertains to real chronic illness. If you've got a temporary injury, if you're recovering from an illness like the stomach flu or a head cold, or if you've just had a lousy day because of situations that occurred, you're not out of spoons; you're tired/pissed/hurt/sick/in recovery.

The spoon theory has become so overused by people who are just unable to deal with their emotions on an every day basis and as someone who has truly been out of spoons, and someone who is friends with others in my same situation, this irritates the hell out of me.

Depression, anxiety, chronic illness, terminal disease...those types of long-term things is what the spoon theory was based on. If you jerked your back out of place while lifting your kid's tricycle or broke your toe by stubbing it on a coffee table? You're not out of spoons, you just have very little ability to deal with being in pain. If you're not in and out of doctors' offices, hospitals, therapists, clinics and pharmacies all the time, then you have no idea what it's like to TRULY be out of spoons. If you haven't had to budget which prescriptions to get filled vs. how many groceries you can afford if you get them all, then you probably don't understand chronic illness. If you have the energy for the things you WANT to do, but not the things you NEED to do, then you're not a "Spoonie". If you choose to be nice to some folks, but use others for what they can give you, you're just an asshole, not someone with chronic illness. If you have the energy for political debate on social media (substitute political with anything you're passionate about), then you're not really worried about how many spoons you'll have left to make dinner or help your kids with their school work.

Yes, this post may make me seem judgmental, and yes, I understand there are exceptions to my generalizations, but I'm so OVER emotionally-incapable people using excuses for being lazy. Don't get me wrong - I have compassion and empathy for those with chronic illness like ALS, Cancer, MS, Lupus, Lyme Disease, Depression, Anxiety, Fibromyalgia and the numerous other incapacitating diseases that rob us of time, energy, and good days. But, I don't have a single rat's ass for those who hide behind something they Googled one day so they can lay around being energy vampires, sucking the life out of those around them.

Please understand I recognize that most of us don't "look" sick. This rant isn't about that. This is about what you spend your time and energy on. And if you think people aren't paying attention, you're only fooling yourself. They just don't want to be the jerk by pointing it out to you. Me? I have no qualms about that because I've been in the trenches with not a spoon to spare. 

To me, this is the equivalent of someone who buys fatigues and medals on Ebay and pretends to be in the military to gain sympathy, respect, pity or special favors. And honey, it's the same here: if you haven't been to war, you don't get to wear the uniform.


Living in the midwest, I don't get to spend very much time at the ocean, but when I'm there, the reverence I feel is overwhelming. I took this the last time I was in LA. February in California is, by far, much warmer than February in Iowa, but it was still a chilly day at the beach as I checked off "#264. Photograph a Pacific sunset" from my bucket list.

When it comes to waiting for the perfect shot, I have infinite patience. It's pretty much the only thing I have patience for, actually. But I rarely expect anyone else to wait with me. Not many people I know understand my process because they're not artists themselves, but my bestie, being the infinitely patient person she is, sat with me as I took photo after photo. We sat on those cold rocks shivering for about an hour. The tide came in, the air got colder, but for that hour, I was at total peace. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

With three kids and a hardworking husband, my life is filled with schedules, deadlines, and activities. My house is always noisy, people are always coming and going, and I don't have a lot of time where I can just relax. But for an hour, on the shores of Malibu in February 2013, I was at total peace.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I did it, Mom!

I grew up inhaling books the way most people did air. My mom took me to the library every week as a kid. Most kids my age would check out two or three books. Me? I had stacks - literally stacks of books. Big ones. Chapter books. And I would read every single one in a matter of days. Sometimes, I'd even check them out more than once so I could read them again. Encyclopedia Brown, Ramona Quimby, and Farley Drexel Hatcher were some of my best friends growing up. (They still are.) My mom had to beg the librarian to let me check out more than a couple of books at a time because most kids my age didn't read more than what was required by school, much less did they read like I did. Mom always swore I would write books someday. I didn't care so much about that. I just wanted to read.

In fact, in elementary school, I failed a lot of creative writing assignments. Surprising, right? Not really. When we were given twenty minutes to write a story, there wasn't enough time to develop an outline, characters and a successful story. So I might have gotten the first paragraph or two done, but nothing more, and it would usually be marked "incomplete". When I got to junior high and high school, my teachers began expecting more from me because they knew how much I read. My sophomore English teacher refused to take book reports from me if the book was less than 150 pages, even though she didn't require that from other students. She told me "You're better than all these sappy teen romances." She was right. So I passed up Sweet Valley High for more mature authors like Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. I still devoured the sappy romances in between the 300-page monsters I summed up for English class, of course, but she had encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone.

Fast forward twenty-some years and at least a thousand books I'd devoured.

Writing my own book came as a fluke. A friend of mine discovered an old fan fiction story she'd written in high school, and we noticed that she'd put me in it. My inspiration came from that story. What had "I" done prior to being in her story? Where was "my" history? Bottom line is that she hadn't written one. "I" was a superfluous character. I wasn't okay with that. So, I began writing My Book. That was the title: My Book. Catchy, right?

Four years, at least three sets of name changes, and a lot of editing later, I published my first book, Distance and Time. I never planned on publishing it, much less making it a series. I was perfectly content with my one, silly, little story, but my friends weren't. They urged me further. I was happy with what I'd done. I was okay with it. "Josh" and "Carly," however, weren't done. Before I knew it, I was writing Better in Time, the second book and the finale, All This Time. As I neared the publication date for book three, Distance made it to #154 on the Amazon bestsellers list (out of over one million books). My mind was blown. I cried with joy for days!

Yesterday, I released the final book in the series, All This Time. My entire Time After Time series has been published. Each book has its own set of great reviews, and I have written a best seller. If, at any point, I decide to stop writing, I am profoundly comfortable with my success as an author, and I am grateful to each one of you who helped me with that journey.

I did it, Mom!

Time After Time full series purchase links:

Distance and Time (Time After Time, #1) Kindle
Distance and Time (Time After Time, #1) paperback
Autographed paperbacks: $15 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Better in Time (Time After Time, #2) Kindle 
Better in Time" (Time After Time, #2) paperback 
Autographed paperbacks: $10 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

All This Time (Time After Time, #3) Kindle
All This Time (Time After Time, #3) paperback
Autographed paperbacks: $15 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon UK Links: (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
Distance and Time   (Paperback) 
Better in Time   (Paperback) 
All This Time   (Paperback)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Happy New Year!

2016? Already? I feel like I just started 2015. Needless to say, I'll be writing the 6 over the 5 for months to come.

I'm in such a great place right now. Truly. It's so different from where I was last year at this time. I'm still dealing with Lyme disease, but thankfully, it went on vacation a few weeks ago and, knock on wood, the symptoms have been almost completely gone. I'm starting to get some energy back (though I still battle with fatigue and exhaustion sometimes) and my brain fog is also at an all-time low. I'm also recovering from carpal tunnel surgery that I had last month. My strength is returning quickly and I'm ridiculously pleased with my surgeon and the work he did. My hands feel better than they have in a long time. I have several weeks to go before I'm back to normal, but all roads seem to indicate I'll get there soon.

The family is crazy as always. Big Man has been at his job for about six months now and loves it. He moved out into his own place and has been adjusting well to bachelor life. He graduates from DMACC in May and is well on his way to incredible success with his company. Boo has been working her butt off and saving money to get her own place. In the meantime, she's just enjoying life with her boyfriend and friends. She will be returning to school in the fall. Midget (I don't know why I still call her that - she's 4" taller than I am!) is in her senior year of high school, and if all things go as planned, she'll graduate in May. She's planning on taking a few months to enjoy a pressure-free summer, then will be enlisting in the military. I'm so proud of my kids and proud of where they're going in life. They make life so much more interesting! Hubby, too, is doing great. This marks year 11 with his company and he loves it as much as he did at the beginning. It's challenging and stressful at times, but he's never been one to back down from a challenge. After all, he married me 15 years ago, right?

I'm gearing up for a new book release in February and cannot be more thrilled. Becoming an author was the best choice I've made, aside from my family. It's allowed me to meet so many people whom I've become close to, and I know there will be so many more joys to come. The feedback I've gotten on my books has been so encouraging and positive. I can't say enough about how great my readers are. I see hateful, negative reviews on so many other authors' pages, and it breaks my heart. I'm sure my day is coming, but until then, I feel so fortunate to have the readers I have.

I don't really have any great epiphanies to share with you today, and I know my blog posts have been further and farther between, but I wanted to catch y'all up on life at my house. I hope everyone's new year is healthy, prosperous and filled with love and good memories to be made.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friendsgiving and a Full House

My mother had three kids and married a man with three kids, so needless to say, I came from a big family. I also grew up on shows like The Brady Bunch and Eight is Enough so I always envisioned having lots of kids someday. The holidays were always fun and exciting, especially when my cousins, aunts, and uncles were included in the festivities.

Then once I grew up and had kids I realized that I am NOT a Brady or a Bradford. Quite frankly, kids make me kinda crazy, so I stopped at two. I would never have those crowded (but cozy) Christmases of my youth, but that was okay. I'd have my sanity. Right? (Shut up.)

Last summer, we were blessed with a third child (can an 18 year old be referred to as a child?) who unexpectedly joined our family after having been in foster care through most of her teens. Bethany rounded out our brood and has made a great addition to our family. Trust me when I say she brings enough fun, excitement, and yes, chaos to the house. Most of the time it's welcomed chaos. ;)

Today, she planned a friendsgiving celebration, inviting her boyfriend and numerous friends and coworkers. There were appetizers, relish trays, turkey with all the trimmings, pies (pies, and more pies), and lots of people.

This unexpected girl who joined our lives has given me a full house after all and I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm not a Brady or a Bradford, but I am a Samples and this is our world.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I sat down yesterday and began writing another book. I've had about a half-dozen ideas come to me in the last few months, but this one was inspired by a book my husband was cackling about a couple weeks ago. I looked at him and told him I found the opening paragraph to my next book. He looked at me like I was crazy, but since that's not a new thing for us, I just grinned and began typing in an empty Word doc. I read back to him what I'd written and he kinda gave me a blank stare and one of his "whatever works for you, honey" looks. God bless him.

Writing for me has been way tough for the last year. Between Lyme bacteria literally drilling into my brain, medication has taken quite a toll on my memory, as well. Disease has skull-fucked me into oblivion and I'm pissed about it. (Yeah, so much for that peace I talked about in the last blog, huh?) When I'm pissed, I become motivated. So yesterday, I sat down and wrote over 2,000 words in a new story. New characters, new story line, new everything. It was hard and it's probably crap and will be edited into something completely different from what I'm writing now, but I have more voices needing to be heard.

It's encouraging to know the characters are still there and even more encouraging that they want to tell their stories. But most encouragingly, I've been writing like a mofo. I'll take it!