Manic Monday: Jetlagged ramblings

Travel provides great fodder for a blog post—especially when traveling alone.

Of course I prefer traveling with my snuggle partner, but when I do he has my attention.  Yesterday I flew from Nashville to Seattle with a two hour layover in Chicago.

While in the Nashville airport I met a nurse who is on the ground floor of a MLM selling facial products. She was very enthusiastic and officered me the opportunity (should this writing thing not work out or should I need extra income) to come on the ground floor too. MLM is the future according to her research. If anyone is interested in being a part of the future, let me know and I’ll give you her contact info as well as that of my sister-in-law who also sells facial and body products.

There was a lot of turbulence on the Nashville to Chicago flight. There was no cabin service and the flight crew remained seated the entire trip. As a former road warrior, I hardly noticed except for the woman sitting next to me who screamed every time the plane dropped. I ended up holding her hand. When we landed there was applause. I guess it was worse than I realized.

Since my gates in Chicago were near each other, I used my layover to take a nice long walk in search of a sit-down restaurant for dinner rather than grab something at any number of fast food options along the way. I ate a salad at a very crowded Harry Caray’s Seventh Inning Stretch.

I was seated at a single table in the back. My table was crowded between two large round tables. I could easily have been a part of either one. Great for character studies.

Three of the five people at the table to my left sent something back. First the opened and poured bottle of wine went back after much discussion and negotiation.  The tomatoes on the bruschetta were too warm so it went back—after they’d eaten half of it. One entrée went back because the lady who’d ordered it had tasted the meal of the person next to her and decided she wanted that instead. The server told her it would take about eight minutes. She ordered an appetizer (chicken fingers) and French fries then complained when they came out about the same time as the entrée.

On the other side of me was a table of six—three couples. Several televisions were tuned to pre-Oscar events so their conversations jumped from actors and actresses, to hairstyles and jewelry, to which gowns worked and which ones didn’t. I think maybe a movie or to might have been mentioned. They had a discussion about who said, “They like me, they really like me.” Like I said, I was practically at their table and after several minutes of guessing everyone from Sylvester Stallone to Goldie Hawn I mumbled Sally Field. Almost immediately the person closest to me proclaimed, “Sally Field,” and got the table’s agreement. I don’t know if she thought an angle told her or she had voices in her head, but they moved on to the next topic.

I got so caught up in the conversations the time got away from me and my two hour layover passed in no time. I paid my check, bought a bottle of water, and got back to my gate just as my plane was boarding.

I got snuggled into my seat, made a couple of notes for character ideas in my notebook, and took out my IPad to read. Since they don’t allow electronic devices until after reaching a certain altitude, I did a Sudoku puzzle, and fell asleep. I can’t say the four-hour flight went by quickly—it was completely full and uncomfortable. I can say I’m glad to be at my sister’s. I’ll tell you more about why I’m here on Wednesday. Until then…

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Just another day (and a half)

What an interesting thirty-six hours it has been.

Hubby did a two-hour presentation in Knoxville yesterday and I tagged along for the six hour round-trip drive. We had to get up at 5 a.m. and it was such good sleeping weather as it had stormed all night. It rained every mile as we drove over, even after we lost one of our windshield wipers. Seems wipers don’t like it when you clean your windshield if they’re turned to auto. It’s a good thing my sweetie loves Rain-X because a) it was too early to find a place open to replace it and b) with the rain we wanted to allow extra time for unexpected events.

Unexpected events like the idiot who stopped on the interstate in front of us. We were toddling along in the left lane at 70 MPH (the speed limit). He was the lead car of at least four cars and would slow up, speed up, repeat. Either he didn’t have cruise control or he was messing with us. Of course Hubby thought he was drinking–as one who does drug testing, he jumps right there. Hubby blinked his lights once and guy stopped. He stopped. Hubby had given him plenty of room so although we had to stop quickly we were in no danger of hitting him. However the car immediately behind us had to change lanes to avoid hitting us (luckily no one was there) and the car behind him had to head for the median to prevent an accident. No one was hurt, but it could easily have been a four car wreck in a miserable cold rain. We passed Mr. Passive Aggressive on the right. No eye contact; no hand gestures; nothing to create further road rage. As we discussed it, I pointed out Crazy Man was doing the speed limit and had every right to do it in any lane he wanted (not the right thing to say).  Then I quickly praised Hubby for his outstanding driving skills in keeping us safe (exactly the right thing to say).

The two hour lecture followed by a two hour lunch went well. We replaced the wiper blade and headed home. It rained most, but not all of the way. As I’m sure you know driving in rain (even if you aren’t the one driving) is draining. I worked on the paper edit of my book on the way over and mostly slept on our way back. When we got home we picked up a veggie pizza for dinner, watched some programs we’d Ti’voed and went to bed. First the firemen called to see if we wanted to donate to their cause. Next the ARC called to see if we had anything to leave on our front porch for them–their truck would be out today. We were both fast asleep when a friend called Hubby’s cell and asked if we were okay. In his sleepy state it didn’t occur to Hubby to ask, “Why?” He just assured him we were fine and thanked him for calling. When he hung up, I asked him why he wanted to know and Hubby said friend and his wife stay up late and he’d probably lost track of time. (Hubby’s logic sometimes befuddles me.) Even so, I said, he didn’t call with the random question . . . something was going on. It was storming again so my guess was a tornado. I don’t remember anymore of the conversation–I went back to sleep.

We awakened this morning to find indeed there was “tornado activity” in our area last night as well as 3-5 inches of rain over the last thirty-six hours. It has only been in the 40’s and 50’s so it’s been a cold, damp rain. It is supposed to clear up today and be a pretty weekend though I could live with another day of drabness. It is easier for editing. And editing I must do. I’m about half way through the paper edit, which is really fun. I’m sitting here wrapped in blankets. I think I’ll get the fireplace cranked up and get busy. Have a wonderful weekend. See you Monday.

~Kay

Wildcard Wednesday: Tribute to a Friend

My friend long-time Donna died six years ago this month. She was 56. I miss her every day, but every February I try to do something to honor her. This post is dedicated to her.

We traipsed the world together, most notably hiking the switchbacks of the Southern Alps in New Zealand when we were both terrified of heights. To train for this adventure we climbed Mt. Cheaha two, maybe three times. Convenient to where we were living at the time this mountain was the highest point in the state of Alabama at 2500’. The highest point in the Southern Alps is 12,000’ though I’m sure we came nowhere near it.

Donna was an interior designer and any sense of decorating style I possess I owe to her. I’d go with her to Atlanta to buy for her clients, laughing all the way. She taught me ways to use color that would make my mother cringe. I’m not nearly as bold with color as Donna was, but there are no cream walls in my house.

Before my mother died, I moved her to a facility near my home so I could monitor her medical care. This was a tough decision because it was two hundred miles from her home (and her friends) but she’d had a major stroke and had to have around the clock nursing care. To put it kindly, Mother was not happy about the move. I couldn’t blame her, but my sister and I saw no other alternative. Since her friends couldn’t visit often I prevailed upon my friends to fill the gap. Donna was first in line. She would slip Mom goodies she wasn’t supposed to have. If I was out of town she’d visit every day, and when I was having a rough day she was always available to calm down Mother or me—whoever needed it most. When Mom died at age 56, Donna cleaned out her room while I was back in my hometown preparing for the funeral.

Life goes on and Donna and I both moved away from the Alabama town where we’d become such good friends. We kept in touch, but it wasn’t the same. Then disaster struck. I got a surprise (for me) divorce. I moved to Nashville. She lived about 90 minutes away and her home became my retreat. We renewed our friendship and it was stronger than ever.

I had started writing again during the time she and I lived in separate areas and it was no great surprise, so had she. We shared our work. She lived in a small college town and joined a writers’ group. She dreamed her first book, set in Latvia. My next door neighbor at the time was born in Latvia. Donna and her husband, Jim, got to go to Latvia for discovery. Unfortunately, she never finished the book.

In the meantime, I met Hubby and she was thrilled. Come to find out she wasn’t that fond of Hubby #1—go figure. She and Jim bought a beautiful bed and breakfast near the college town they’d come to love. She put her decorating skills to work (Jim has a good eye too) and together they transformed the inn into a showplace.

On their 20th wedding anniversary, also the 1 year anniversary of the purchase of the inn she got the dreadful diagnosis of the “C” word. It was in August and the outlook was grim. She did everything she could do to fight it. She tried traditional medicine, alternative medicine and everything in between. It was so difficult to watch a husband lose a wife, to see her parents lose their daughter, for me to lose my friend.

She lived a year and a half after her diagnosis—long enough for Jim’s oldest son to get married (Donna was in the hospital—Hubby and I (along with her parents) were with her; she was so sick) and long enough to see her only son get married in the church across the street from the inn.

I got to say goodbye to her the Saturday before she slipped into a coma on Sunday. She died mid-week. I sat at her bedside and fed her ice chips. We laughed at old memories. She told me to look out for Jim. She said she was tired and wasn’t afraid. We said all that needed to be said. We said goodbye. She told me she’d be watching out for me. I held it together until Hubby came in to get me and she said, “You take good care of her, you hear?” the last words I ever heard her say because I walked into the kitchen and lost it.

I’ll be 56 next month. The age Donna was when she died. The age my mother was when she died. Do I think I’m going to die when I’m 56? In spite of the fact that I’ve been sick for 9 weeks now with this stinking virus, no, not really.  What are my greatest fears should I die at 56? Practical stuff like Hubby finding the passwords to accounts and dealing with all the stacks of stuff I’ve left behind…but back to Donna.

Your influence lives on and I think about you often–how can I not?  There are reminders of you all over my home.  Things we bought together. Gifts you gave me.  Some of your jewelry and wraps Jim gave me after you died.

There’s a hole in my heart that can’t be filled. I miss you, my friend.

~Kay

Monday Madness: Tired of being tired

You might recall a couple of months ago (December 21st to be exact) I got sick. I mean really sick. Hubby took me to the doctor three times in seven days. I was too sick to read. I was too sick to check e-mail. Somehow I managed to get a post up every MWF, but they were short (sometimes one line) and mostly incoherent, talking about my newly acquired drug habit.

Tomorrow starts the 9th week since the virus struck. The primary symptoms were a persistent cough, headache whenever I coughed, trouble breathing and extreme (I do mean extreme) fatigue. The long and short of it was I had a severe case of bronchitis that closed my upper airways and developed into asthma. The doctors told me breathing treatments, rest, exercise (do you see a contradiction here?) and waiting it out was what I’d have to do.

The cough is gone … mostly. I still have two or three coughing spells during the night and pop cough drops. Sometimes during the day, I’ll get hacky–I have a smoker’s cough to give you an idea of how it sounds–but again cough drops are my friend. At least I don’t get the severe headache every time I cough and it isn’t nonstop.

I still have SOB–shortness of breath. (Side-note–don’t be offended if you see your doctor write SOB on your medical chart. Unless you’re in for a sore toe.) I don’t  do the breathing treatments regularly, but when my chest is unusually tight I have that option.

The biggie is the fatigue. I have no problem with the resting part of the doctor’s orders  … when the fatigue hits, it hits like a brick wall. I usually stop where ever I am (which is most likely home because I seldom go anywhere — I went for over a month without driving and only drive when I have to now), close my eyes and take a little nap. Sometimes the nap is two hours. If I’m writing I try to put my laptop down, but sometimes I don’t have the energy. If I can’t, I pull the blanket over the laptop and fall asleep like that. (Laptops aren’t particularly good snuggle buddies.)

I know napping in the daytime isn’t good for you, but honestly I can get up at 7, hit a wall at 9, nap until 11, hit another wall at 1, nap until 3 . . . then go to bed sometime between 6 and 8 and sleep until 7 the next morning. Am I getting too much sleep? The doctor says no. My body is zapped from fighting the virus, but I need exercise too. Say what?

So I tried to go to my 2 hour tap dance class last week. I made it through one dance. But I’ll keep going back. Just getting there, in my book, is exercise. The problem is I have to drive home. I’m also trying to walk on a treadmill. Prior to December 21st I could do an hour easily. Now 10 minutes tops.

When I first got this crud they said it could hang on for a couple of months. Okay, it’s been two months, so what’s the deal??? Hubby ran into a friend the other night at a concert I was too tired to attend. Friend said he’d had it for four months. Don’t tell me that.

There is an upside. I’m married to a saint. When I first got sick he stayed home and took care of me, making sure I took my medicine, ate and stayed hydrated. He did all the cooking and all the laundry until a couple of weeks ago (and to be honest still does most of it). I haven’t set foot inside a grocery store since mid-December. He set up (and cleaned up) all my breathing treatments). He sits on the couch and lets me put my head in his lap and have all the blankets and throws to keep warm. He (sometimes) goes to bed early with me so I won’t be cold. He (still) puts my meals on a tray and brings them to me. The best part–he hasn’t complained once.

It’s Monday. It’s overcast. I’m having so much fun finishing the revision of my novel, yet the lingering of this virus is wearing me down. If anyone has any great ideas how to get through this and feel good physically again, I’ll all ears. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in the world around me. I want to be awake and have the energy to enjoy it!

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Revisions Update

This is the end of the fifth week of my online writing class, Revisions. The goal is to completely tear our novels apart and put them back together, finishing the final acts this week. Somehow, miraculously, I’m on track and will finish this process today. Our instructor lectured at a conference last weekend so we actually get an extra week, but I’m trying to stick to the original schedule because of an out of town commitment I have the week following the original end of the class.

One thing I’ve noticed: Things are getting serious now. Remember all of the chit-chat in the forums for the class, creating of class Facebook pages, chatting via IM and even watching movies together (well sort-of) a few weeks ago? Well, all of that has slowed waaay down. Three or four weeks ago I’d check the forums several times a day and there would be dozens of new posts since I’d last looked. Now I’m checking much less frequently and the activity level has dropped. Today, in fact, one of my favorite classmates, started a new thread updating us on his progress and challenging us to procrastinate more. He said he misses the distraction of the forums and while I do too, I’m getting much more work done.

After this week’s assignment the final week will be spent doing a paper edit. We print the novel out and read it on paper. You can see things on paper you can’t see on the screen (and vice versa). I’ll go through with colored pens and highlighters, sticky notes and other handy-dandy got-to-haves that make going to an office supply store more fun than going to a candy store.

I’ll make those corrections, then it’s time (Jaw’s music) for Beta Readers–a combination of writers and non-writers who read the manuscript and give feedback. Once that feedback is incorporated into the manuscript–well, that’s all I can do. It’s ready to query and I’ll be ready to work on another novel.  Don’t you just love the writing process? Me too. Have a great weekend.

Until Monday . . .

~Kay

Wildcard Wednesday: Podcasts

Until recently I had no idea what a podcast was. Well, I had an idea, but had never participated in one. That changed, however, when I began my online Transitions class five weeks ago as it was done via podcast.

A podcast can be downloaded directly from the Internet or from streamed webcasting. Podcasts are usually a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released in episodes. Think Car Talk. If you were going to fly from Florida to California, you could download all the episodes of Car Talk and listen to Click and Clack the whole way. I’m not going to go into all the technical jargon about as to how a podcast works because you’d immediately know I don’t have a clue.

My online class is a live podcast. We all sign on at a certain time and up pops the teacher’s face and we can hear her voice. She, however, cannot hear us. An online notepad is set up so we can ask questions, write notes each other, whatever during the class and she answers real-time. When this is over the whole thing (notes and all) are put on a server so it can be downloaded later. Then, of course, it would no longer be a live podcast.

A live podcast is not to confused with a skype conversation which I think is about the coolest thing since indoor plumbing. Skype is best for a one-on-one conversation or at most three or four on each end. Each person sits in front of a computer with a web camera. Some computers these days have them built in. If not cameras are cheap and can be found at an electronics or office supply store. You sign on and place a video call to the other person. When they answer, you see them and they see you. There is a small box so you can see what they are seeing. Our not yet five-year-old godson skypes us by himself. It’s not difficult.

Anyway, back to the podcast. A podcast doesn’t have to have video and if it does it is only going to be one way. Only if it is live will you be able to participate and that will be by writing questions or notes during the session.

A cool daily podcast (M-F) is Story Wonk hosted by Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens.  Alastair has a delightful Scottish accent and you can almost hear Lani blush during the banter back and forth. When I first started listening I wasn’t sure whether or not they were “a couple” but I knew if they weren’t they were missing an opportunity. They’re not missing any opportunities. Go there sometime and check it out. You can get the Story Wonk podcast via iTunes as well.

Podcast.com boasts the largest collection of podcasts on the web with 85,000. They have an index to make your search a tad bit easier.

If you’ve combed the 85k podcasts at Podcast.com and still not found the one of your dreams, you’ve got a final option. You can make and post your own. Remember though once on the Internet it is out there (somewhere) forever. And if you make your own podcast, please, please, please come back to my blog and leave a comment letting us know.

Until then, leave a comment with a link to your favorite podcast.

~Kay

Manic Monday: Happy Valentine’s Day

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Do you LOVE what you do? I mean really LOVE it? In other words, if you won the lottery (you did buy a ticket, didn’t you?) would you do tomorrow what you do today? (Okay, would you do it next month–you’ll need a little time off to celebrate.)

I can’t not write. Here’s how bad it is. I write on an almost three year old Toshiba laptop.  The delete key is gone. The “i” sticks as does the shift key.  Hubby refuses to use it even though are workarounds a delete key–I promise! My keypad needs to be replaced but has to be sent off to do so, and there’s about a two week turnaround time. It’s under warranty until August so I’ve got to bite the bullet and let it go before too long.   I have a desktop, but it blew up a year or about ago and my net book is so small . . . you get the picture. I write in spite of these obstacles.

Do I always love what I write? No. From time to time I think I’m writing something I love and the story takes off in a direction I didn’t see coming and I don’t love it after all. What do I do? Chunk it and start over or keep going and see if perhaps, just perhaps I’ll fall in love with it again before the end. Sometimes I rekindle the love. More often I don’t. But that doesn’t mean the piece doesn’t have value. It only means I don’t particularly love it. The point is it’s the writing, the process, I really love.

With clarity and objectivity only years can bring, I go back now and read some of my earlier work. My response is always the same: “I wrote that?” Sometimes it means I can’t believe I wrote something so awful and kept it, but more often than not, it means I can’t believe I wrote something so insightful and I wish I still had that wisdom. I do, of course and I’ll realize it in about twenty years.

Unfortunately not all of us are in a position where we can do something we really love day in and day out. I thank God and Hubby I am. I’ve had jobs where I worked because I had to and there was a stress level there that in itself took some of the joy away from the job.  I’m reminded of a quote I’ve often heard. I don’t know its origin but the gist of it is something like this: if you do something you love success will find you. I’m doing something I love. Hey, success … I’m waiting.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

~Kay

Friday Favorites: 100th Post!

Friday Favorites: 100th Post

Less than a year ago, I started this blog. I posted sporadically (i.e. a couple of times a month) until I took an online course where I learned consistency was a necessity. In August I started posting three times a week and wa la. Here we are five months later–100 posts.

I’m going to do something special today. I’m giving myself the day off. So enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.

~Kay

Wildcard Wednesday: Motivation

What does it take to motivate you?

My biggest problem problems are getting started followed by distractions. I can always find something else to do.

I’m currently working on revising my novel with the help of an online revisions class. I’m on a strict time line. I got ahead last week which gave me the opportunity to get a jump on this week. Did I? Nope I fiddle-farted around and did everything but. I had a productive day yesterday even with distractions. I’m not ahead by any means–I’m not even back on schedule. But the week’s goal is attainable IF I focus, keep my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

What’s working for me is closing all the windows except my m/s, the spreadsheet I created to keep up with my characters and miscellaneous details, other documents I use for writing, but NO Facebook, NO e-mail, NO forums (not even for my writing class) nothing except the book. When I’ve been successful for two hours, I allow myself a break. I check e-mail, check forums, check FB, get a snack, you get the idea–but I set a time limit on that too or I get absorbed and lose a chunk of the day.

If I can get three or four of the two hour chunks in without distraction, I’m doing great. Who am I kidding? If I can get two in under normal circumstances, I’m rocking and rolling. But these aren’t normal circumstances. I’m revising baby. So gotta go revise.

How do you motivate yourself to finish your projects?

~Kay

Manic Monday: Super Bowl XLV

I was disappointed the Tennessee Titans didn’t win the Super Bowl last night. Oh, I know they didn’t play. I know they weren’t even in the play-offs. I also know they had a losing season, don’t have a head coach (so sad Jeff Fisher left), and have said goodbye to many of their best players. I know their owner is a ninety something year old kook (my opinion).  Since they didn’t play I watched for the commercials.

Which commercial was your personal favorite? Didn’t see them all? You can check them out at  Super Bowl Commercials I’ve not been to the website yet even though I missed a few because Hubby snagged the remote and checked the Weather Channel when I wasn’t looking.

I won’t ask what’s the deal with men and remotes—we all know it’s a genetic affliction and they simply can’t control it. But what is it about the weather channel that mesmerizes them so? All the men I know get so hypnotized they’ll watch the same loop and listen to the same (bad) music over and over and over until someone does an intervention. If I need the weather I usually go online, but if I do check the weather channel, I first MUTE the music, then I check the forecast once. If they happen to be broadcasting live when I’m checking, I’ll listen once. That’s all I need, and I don’t have an extraordinary memory.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Super Bowl. Since there was football in between the commercials Hubby and I decided to pick a team to pull for to keep us entertained. We learned a long time ago, not to pick opposing teams so we went with Green Bay. A local kid was their Center and right before half-time Hubby thought he recognized one of their offensive starters as as someone he taught in Sunday School way back when. We checked the lineup in the Sunday paper and sure enough it was the same guy so we had two good (enough) reasons to pull for Green Bay.

I don’t think it wasn’t a particularly good year for commercials—none made me laugh out loud. Betty White made a cameo in one but no staring roles. As an industry, I think automotive topped beer this year. Bridgestone was a sponsor and off the top of my head CarMax, Mercedes, Volkswagon, Audi, Hyundai, Dodge, BMW, Acura, and Camaro had ads. That’s a lot of cars.

We went to bed before the Glee musical ad—it was after the Super Bowl so it wouldn’t be eligible for my Viewer’s Choice List anyway. Which commercials did you like best? Here are my top three:

3.  Coke ad where they changed the border by drawing in the sand

2. E-Trades – It’s hard to go wrong with a baby in commercials

1. Doritos had several cute ones: My favorite was where Grandpa got knocked off the mantle.

Betty White – I missed you!  Joan Rivers is simply not in your league (but she looked great in that outfit).

Til Wednesday. . .

~Kay