Sunday, August 26, 2018

Letting Go, "Finding Marnie"

My apologies for not posting in a while. It's been a crazy, crazy time for us, and to be honest, the one med I'm now on for various chronic pain conditions is knocking me for a loop.

I am going to be weaning myself off of that medication over time, with my doctor's supervision. I'd rather get the shocks/zaps from the TN over feeling like a bloody zombie. I'm unable to work due to a constant *brain fog*, and my vision is messed up to the point where I am scared to drive - both symptoms are side effects of this medication. I'm not myself, and I HATE it. I want to be able to think without my brain skipping like a broken record. 

This medication has also made the stress of August worse... It magnified everything for me.

The fridge decided to give up the ghost on July 31st. It didn't owe us anything, it was Nanny's old one, and we inherited after she passed away. It was about 20 years old too, and the brand isn't even made nowadays. So we got a new one, although we had to wait a week for it to be delivered.


It's chrome, and I think it's so PRETTY! It seems larger than the old one but I'm not sure why. Probably because there's a lot more room on the door?

The fridge dying we could handle... The next one was pretty awful, mainly for Hubby.

The engine in our dear sweet big car, the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood, suffered a fatal blow when its cam shaft started going. It was at our mechanic's place (Tim) at the time, so he was able to look things over.

It's not worth getting another engine for her. We may get two more years out of it, five if we don't drive it too much... Since it's Hubby's main vehicle, we decided it was time to let it go and look for a new vehicle.

So far, no luck. Hubby is now using my main car, my itty bitty Focus, as his main vehicle. Yeah. He's being razzed a bit for not driving that 19 footer. LOL

The third and final one was the toughest for all of us......

Last weekend, we noticed something was off with Amber, our kitty. She wasn't eating much, but drinking a lot, and she was unable to control her bum. She was constantly messing on herself and everywhere else.

She deteriorated so fast... One day she was fine, the next, she wasn't. We did our best to help her, but nothing worked. We decided she needed to go to the vet... And I didn't expect her to come home.

Monday, August 20th, 2018... Amber crossed the Rainbow Bridge at 8:55 a.m. in my husband's arms, and he stayed with her for a while afterwards. Our veterinarian thinks she had either liver failure or kidney failure, or a combination of both. (Both will make a cat go downhill in less than a week) He said we did the right thing, any attempts to help her and prolong her life would have made her miserable, and she would have passed away anyway.





Knowing all of this didn't help me at all. For the last 8 years since we adopted her, the last six since Noelle passed away, Amber has been my constant companion... She was always nearby if I needed her - cuddles, a meow, or just seeing her helped me a lot with the anxiety issues and depression. She was *THE* cat that was here the entire time I was writing, editing, getting rejections, and everything else for Stricken. No other cat was here for it. She was my writing supervisor, my beloved writing buddy too.

I started crying over the weekend, spent my birthday on the 19th in tears, and haven't really stopped bawling at all since we realized we may lose Amber. Knowing she's gone and won't be coming home really, really hit me hard. So hard that I said no more cats for a while. (This is really strange for me, because I have *never* been without a cat my entire life)

My poor mom called to wish me a happy birthday and wound up getting a blubbering mess instead of her oldest daughter. I know I worried her, a lot... Mom knows how strongly I bond with my cats, and she knows how much Amber and I loved each other.

We didn't talk about getting a cat much, other than I said I wanted a rescue kitty from the shelter or a foster home (I am a firm believer in saving a life, or more than one), and I wanted all new stuff for the new cat, *IF* we decided to get another one.

Meanwhile, our son was going on about how much he wanted to see Amber... I don't think he fully got that she was gone for good, not until we had to sit him down and explain it to him in detail. This in turn, upset him, because Amber was his buddy too. He'd play on his Wii upstairs and she'd nap on his bed, or sit on his windowsill and watch the birdies and meow at anyone outside. 

He finally started asking, then *nagging* to get another kitty. He missed having one. So did I, but I wanted time to mourn my sweet Amber properly, and to start moving forward.

Friday night was when I realized what was going on with me regarding the medication I'm on for the trigeminal end of things, and I discussed things with Hubby on Saturday morning. 

He told me that I don't seem like myself because I don't have a feline counterpart. Not exactly his words, but that's what it basically comes down to. I need a cat to love, spoil and talk to, and Amber's passing meant I do not have that. He said that we could visit the shelter when I'm ready, and not beforehand.

It was a tough decision... I kept thinking of Amber, and the more I thought of her, the more I cried. 

At the same time, I knew in my heart that's the place we'd find a kitty for us. I wasn't sure when we'd find them yet... Or if I was ready.

Saturday, August 25, 2018: We arrive at S.H.A.I.D. Tree Animal Shelter to visit their cats, unsure if we're going to adopt one or not. I wanted a cat about six months to two years old... Old enough to be big enough so we wouldn't have to kitten proof the house, but young enough to be silly and playful.

Unfortunately the two I had been looking at on their website had already been adopted to loving homes. All of the other cats were either really small kittens, feral, or at least 8 to 10 years old...

Except for one particular fluffball. She is a four year old black and white cat, with an unusual coat. Plus she started meowing the instant she saw us, rubbing her face along the bars of the cage and demanding attention. I put my hand down to her, and she smooched it. Several times. The lady who was helping us, Vicki, said the kitty was brought in by a loving owner who could no longer keep her due to lifestyle changes, and it was done reluctantly. (I don't know the circumstances, I didn't ask) 

This big ball of fur kept talking to us and demanding attention while we were being greeted by the friendlier kittens. One had the runs, and although she was friendly and loved attention, she wasn't ready to be adopted out yet. She wasn't even six weeks old yet. The shelter doesn't like adopting out babies younger than 8 weeks, unless the person adopting will foster them first, and if they're not well, they stay in the shelter until deemed healthy. 

I went into the other room, and met a few other cats, while this particular black and white fluffball kept talking her head off.

Hubby reached down to her, and she started kissing his fingers, and licking them... Which reminded us of our old sweetheart, Birdie. She was a big licker. LOL

We finally asked if I could hold the talking kitty, whose name turned out to be MARNIE. Vicki placed her in my arms, and Marnie instantly settled down, started purring and snuggled in as if to say "MINE!". 

She also gave my son a lot of kisses. 

That sealed it. Within twenty minutes, I was signing the adoption papers, and Marnie was in the carrier, ready to go to her new home. 


Discovering one of the "Kitty TV Portals".


The instant we let her out of the carrier, she did a little exploring, but went upstairs, into my son's bedroom, and pretty much stayed there the entire afternoon. Wherever he went, Marnie followed. She really, really bonded with him first, although she is loving up to Hubby and myself.  I don't think she's stopped purring since we let her out of the carrier. She's unsure of things, but happy to be out of that cage and with people who are spoiling her to bits.

She knows where her food and water are, and the litter box, but so far has either hung out upstairs with our son, or as you see in the photo, on Amber's old perch in front of the kitchen window, by my office. Each time I look over there, I see a really, REALLY fluffy tail.

It looks odd right now, considering Amber was a short hair, and had a skinny tail. Marnie's is ultra fluffy, and almost looks like a skunk's. One of my old school chums, who is a veterinarian out west, told me he thinks she's either part or full Maine Coon Cat. No problems on my end, I love Maine Coons, although I'd be happy if she was just a regular domestic longhair. Seriously, her tail fur is at least 3 to four inches long, so is the fur on her body... It's really soft and silky too. Noelle had soft fur, but had nothing on Marnie. 

I will always love and miss Amber to bits... It's been eight years since Birdie passed, and I still cry over her... BUT it's time to let go and move on. Amber would understand I cannot live without a kitty to love and spoil, and knows how hard life is on a cat without a home. She was a homeless kitten when Nanny brought her home in 2005... She turned out to be a sweetheart, the most laid back cat I've ever met. She will always be my baby, my writing buddy and monitor kitty, but since she's no longer here, we need someone else to fill in the hole she left behind when she passed away. I am still crying over Amber, and I probably will for a while... Grief has no boundaries and no time limit. 

Marnie seems to know we needed her, like she needed someone to love and spoil her. She is always talking to us, always smooching, and never afraid to ask for some love... Which we are happy to give. I needed a cat to love. She needed a home. 

I'll keep everyone posted on how things are going with Marnie. I'm not expecting her to be a writing supervisor or Monitor Kitty - that was Amber. I am expecting a lot of zaniness, and lots of silly revenge for things like leaving her alone all day, Marnie style. 

Life just got really, really interesting. Let's see where we go this time. 

I leave you with one of my new favorites... Thank you Lorrie for introducing me to GODSMACK.... "Under Your Scars".


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Provincials?

Holy freaking cow. So much has happened since March, I don't know where to start...

I haven't been up to writing a lot due to being exhausted from running around so damn much. Doctor's appointments, another round of nerve blocks on May 2nd, physiotherapy (ended May 29, but I can go back if I need to), and two trips to different parts of the province thanks to my crazy now 14 year old son. 

Hubby is healing, slowly, but he is on the mend. Thank you everyone who sent get better wishes, and said prayers for him. That was really sweet of all of you. He's now doing his regular routine, but being ultra careful. I'm still "on deck" in case something else happens. Thank heavens for nerve blocks...

I also had an MRI on May 3, as a precaution. I'm fine, no cancer, no tumors, and yes there IS a brain in there! I'm not allowed taking any more ativan, but that's another story for another blog. LOL 

As for the trips around the province, oh boy....

First of all, my son has the habit of NOT telling me about a lot of stuff he's doing in school. Most of the time, I hear it from his friends, or in this case, his teachers.

Middle of May: I get a text from his Resource/homeroom teacher, asking if I was able to pick up my son after Track and Field practice at my old high school.... And he would be competing in three events two days later, at the same school - shot put, long jump and the 100 m dash.

Um, what? He mentioned doing shot put a few times, but only as part of doing exercises with his TAs, but never anything about being on the track and field team.

Okay... I was early picking him up, and sure enough, he and two of his classmates were practicing all three events, and the rest of the track and field team were cheering them on.

The District Championship was held a couple of days later, thankfully on a day Hubby was home. We coated ourselves in sunblock and fly dope, packed a lunch for everyone, and sat among the other parents as teams from across Lunenburg and Queens counties competed to see who would go to the Regional Championships the following week.

District Championship, Park View Education Centre: All athletes gathered at the announcer's booth, listening to instructions.

District Championship: Part of the "Sea of Red" aka Patriots (Son's Team) rooting for all of the track athletes competing.
Son didn't do well in the long jump. He would run to the line, stop dead, and hop. He is scared of hurting himself, and after watching some of the senior high kids do it, he has decided it's not for him.

The 100 m dash wasn't great either. He placed last in his heat, but everyone still screamed for him.

I thought he didn't do great in Shot Put either, but apparently he did. I thought he placed 9th or 10th in his division, but found out later that week he did well enough to represent the school in the Regional Championship.

May 25, we arrive at Acadia University in Wolfville, an hour's drive northeast of us, for our son to compete in the Junior Boys Special Athletes division, Shot Put event.

Western Regional Championship: Raymond Field, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS.

All of the kids did an amazing job. I saw a lot of the girls and boys from our team win their heats, and even found out a few were going to the Provincial Championships. 

The top six or eight from the Jr. Boys Special Athletes Shot Put would be going to the Provincials.

The winner was a boy of about 14 or 15, and he biffed the shot put over 10 metres (over 32 feet) for the ribbon. That kid is amazing! The second place winner had a throw of about 8 or so metres.

Third place was 3.88 metres - I know the exact number, because it was my son that made that throw. It was his best to date. I almost fainted and Hubby grinned from ear to ear when we clued in what our son had accomplished.

Son's Third Place ribbon for Regional Championships in the Shot Put Event.

His first year on the Track and Field team, and he was off to the Provincial Championships, which was held in Sydney, NS, at Cape Breton University this year.

May 31: Son and I leave for Sydney with one of his TAs, the other special athlete who made it to Provincials (ironically in shot put too), and his mom. I was squashed in the back seat of an SUV with two crazy kids for six hours one way. We left around 11 that morning, got to the hotel around 6, relaxed for a bit while we got organized for the night, and went out for supper with the rest of the team and coaches. Just hanging out with everyone and feeling the camaraderie was amazing. I wasn't athletic in school, in fact, I was the fat girl, a target for a lot of the kids back then. I was in band while in junior high, but I was still a target for a lot of the other participants, because they were popular and I wasn't. So I never experienced what it is like to be a part of something like this. 

Everyone on the team was really supportive of my son, and all of them made an effort to say hi to him at some point, even allowing him to hang out with them at the hotel after we ate. 

Canso Causeway, between the Nova Scotia Mainland and Cape Breton Island.
June 1st: Kids from other schools, including the high school my son will be attending in a few years, were at the hotel, and there were no tensions between the athletes at all during breakfast. Everyone was polite, friendly, and even wished everyone else the best of luck that weekend. My son charmed kids from other schools, it seems that everyone clued in that he has autism and was just a friendly kid who liked making friends. (Thank heavens)

Cape Breton University is almost as beautiful as Acadia. The track isn't set up for Canadian rules Football, and they have an enclosed soccer (regular football) field. It's also a newer campus, so it's a bit more modern looking, and a bit more sparsely laid out right now. It was a great setting to see the best of the best student athletes competing. 183 schools from across the province were represented, some with only 1 or two athletes, others like Son's school had at least 15 to 20 students participating.

Cape Breton University track, just outside of Sydney, NS.

That white "tent" is a covered soccer (original football) field. The athletes can play year round in all kinds of weather!

Shot Put!


Son did his bit in shot put, and even got a new personal record: 4.21 metres (13 feet, 10.75 inches). However, that wasn't enough to get him a medal. The boy that took first place in the Regional Championship got a record too, of 10.91 metres (over 34 feet), and third place was over 7 metres (22 feet, 11 inches). Even the girls were shooting at least 5 to six metres.

Son wasn't happy he didn't place, but his friend/teammate didn't place either. Son took 9th place, and his pal took 10th. The competition in their division was TOUGH, and they did great to get what they did. 

Personally I was so proud to see my son make it on the team... Making it to the Regional championship was awesome, but getting third, and making it to the Provincial championship was just the icing on this ultra fast moving and fun cake! 

We made our way home after the results were announced, after wishing the rest of the team all the best in their events. Some of the boys had already won medals, and a lot of the girls had placed high in their heats, so spirits were high.

We also made a stop on our way home... Rita's Tea Room. This was the home of singer Rita MacNeil years ago, and she converted it to a tea room in the 1990s. After her death in 2013, it has become a beautiful memorial house for her, featuring information about her entire life, musical career, and how much she loved Nova Scotia. It is a gorgeous spot in the springtime as the flowers are in bloom... It's just as pretty inside, with so many things from Ms. MacNeil's career and life on display, and gorgeous decor.

Rita's Tea Room




The boys had cheesecake with blueberry compote with a glass of pop, while the three of us girls had tea (house blend) with strawberry shortcake tea biscuits. The tea was fantastic, and the dessert was out of this world delicious (Yes, I had sugar, I was careful and didn't eat much other than veggies for the rest of the day!) I recommend all who are on the eastern part of Cape Breton Island - Big Pond area - to go there. It's well worth the stop!

We got home Friday night at 10 p.m., less than 36 hours after we left for Sydney. 

I found out on Sunday that the boys took home the Intermediate GOLD, and the girls did really well too (I'm not sure where they placed, sorry). 

The 2017-18 championship banner for Junior Boys Track and Field.
Apparently Son was getting an award on Awards Night this past Thursday... We went, and it turns out he was getting his certificate of participation for competing in the Provincial Championship. He was so excited! All of his friends, including the two students who won Athlete of the Year, congratulated him, and even showed them their awards!

I'd say it was a successful year. If Grade 8 is even half as good as Grade 7 was, it's going to be phenomenal!

On a final note, I am back to work on a manuscript... I'm refitting an old draft I wrote a few years ago. I'm not sure if it will ever be sent out or not, or if it will be a standalone book or part of a series, but I am working again.

It feels good to be back into it, after feeling so crappy for so long. Hopefully things hold off until school gets out, three weeks from now.

Have a great day everyone... I leave you with "She's Called Nova Scotia" by Ms. Rita MacNeil. Read the lyrics HERE.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

STRICKEN: One Year Later

Stricken came out exactly one year ago today... It's so hard to believe that my little story has been out there this long already! The last 365 days just flew by. 

In recognition of this wonderful event's first anniversary, I would like to share something with all of you... 

The *real* story behind Stricken - when I came up with the original idea, when its original 207K draft was finished, etc. - and the rest of the journey to being accepted by eXtasy Books in 2016. It's a little long, and may seem disjointed by times, but please... Enjoy.


Stricken's Cover Page, Manuscript Version


BEHIND THE WRITING: The Real Story of "STRICKEN"
Originally published in Facebook on February 28, 2017
Edited version for Blogger Copyright 2018 V.J. Allison

When I first came up with the idea for this particular story in 2010, it was quite different than it is today. Yes, the principle of the story was identical - two extremely different people falling in love and facing a lot of adversity - but the evolution of the story line, the characters and everything else in the last seven - almost 8 - years still blows me away.

The original version of Stricken covers 15 years from Chapter 1 to the Epilogue, with a 6-year gap between Part 1 and Part 2, and another six-year gap between the ending and its epilogue. Its original name was No Regrets. It covered the blossoming romance from the time the two main characters met to six years after their marriage, and even a lot of stuff that happened after their “happy ever after”. It was a hefty read at over 207,000 words, and about 400 pages. Its first draft was finished October 30, 2012.

I think my biggest mistake was thinking that just because I did things differently, I would be grabbed up by a publisher in no time. I was arrogant, and overconfident in my work. I thought I knew it all about editing, proofing and everything else. I didn’t have a beta reader either, and that’s something essential to an aspiring or newbie author to my understanding.

It started going out in 2013, not even four months after its first draft was completed. For a newbie, this is not enough time to get things perfected. One needs practice, and it’s rare that a publisher will take on a person with their first attempt at writing a book.

I got rejections galore. How many is between myself and a select few. No one told me why it wasn’t what they wanted, other than it was “too long”, or my style wasn’t right for them.

Finally, in January of 2014, an editor for a publisher in Indiana (one of the best in the genre at that time) took the time to give me a personal rejection note. She gave me a few examples of what I was doing wrong - tons of repetition (think descriptions of a person’s voice, eyes, etc), and that I had a lot of passive scenes - unneeded stuff that didn’t move the story forward.

Her kind words made me look at the story with new eyes. I went through it, noted a few things and decided it was time to work on something else - a story that *was* up to publisher’s standards - and to try honing my natural talent to a fine edge. I also joined a couple of writing forums at her suggestion and decided to get some people in as beta readers. People who I trusted, yet knew the craft of writing, or were just voracious readers like myself.

(((You have to be able to take constructive criticism - good and bad - in order to improve and grow as a writer. If you cannot take things professionally and get offended if someone doesn’t like your stuff or tells you a way to improve it, you will never make it as an author, and more than likely, never get published.)))

“Away to Me” was written in less than 3 months, and although it may never see the light of day publishing wise, it’s still a cute story in my opinion.

Meanwhile, “No Regrets” sat on my hard drive, gathering dust for a while. I can’t remember how it came about, but one of my old school chums wanted to read it and I let her. She liked it and gave me a lot of suggestions on how I could improve it.

I wasn’t sure, but did write down her suggestions, just in case. I really wanted that story out there. The characters were still in my head, clamoring for me to get their story out there, somehow.

Even though it was suggested by some that I self publish "No Regrets" in the original format, I decided not to.

I'm glad I didn't. It would have marked the end of my career as an author. Self published works have to be *perfect* - from its storyline to the editing, as well as the blurb and the cover. If anything seems out of place, it's less likely that readers will purchase any of your books in the future, no matter if they are polished to perfection or not. (Thank you to the gang at my closed writing forum for those words of wisdom!)

I decided to rewrite the entire thing, from start to finish. “No Regrets” was finally yanked out of cold storage and looked at again. At 207 K, it was twice the length of the average romance or erotica novel. I had to do a lot of trimming. I was also seeing spots where it didn’t make sense, or it was too confusing. Thanks to the kind editor, and my school chum, I was seeing the passive areas, and other mistakes started showing up a lot easier.

I think a third of the story was passive areas. Another ten percent of it was repetitive stuff. All of those were immediately eliminated.

Next to go was having it all in one volume. It was broken into two parts, and each was given a designation. “Hearts Awakening” would cover the first half of their story, from the time they met to a year after their breakup, and “Hearts Remembering” would cover becoming face to face again and their subsequent journey toward happy ever after.

It wasn’t until about twenty false starts that I realized that working it as two books wasn’t going to work either, especially after advice about “keeping it under 6 months” came from that old school chum.

Besides, romance novels generally have a happy ever after or happy for now ending. Part One was *not* a happy ending. It was sad, and really not for the romance market as we see today.

It was late in 2014 that I decided to eliminate the first half of the story, and only write from their meeting up years after the break up to their happy ever after.

I also started thinking about how plausible a lot of the things were, like how the breakup came about, and everything else related to it. That was changed. It’s now extremely plausible and flows so much better.

I eliminated a few of the characters too, as well as changed one around to something else, and added a new one. This had been pretty illogical in the first incarnation.

Instead of starting off exactly where Part 2 originally started, I went with something else, a much better hook. Something that would make you wonder what the hell was up with that and why they broke up in the first place.

I admit, I did copy and paste somethings from the original into the updated version... The original wasn’t all bad, and some of it turned out to be some of the most memorable lines I’ve written to date.

However, I’d say about 80% of this was me pounding on the keyboard, writing it from scratch but with the timeline and their personalities handy, just to keep myself on track.

It was finished in February 2015, after I decided to eliminate the epilogue. It wasn’t going to add to it, only drag things down. It also left the option of having this as a standalone book instead of a series or duology.

I think the year I took off after its revised first draft was done was the best thing for it. When I took it out of “storage” in early 2016, I could see a lot of the problems with editing and so forth and set out to get those corrected. Thanks to my best friend Heather, we managed to polish it to a shine. I dubbed it “Hearts Remembering” and decided who would get it first.

It went to a publishing house that was supposed to reply to me in three months or less. 

It was rejected at the five-month mark, which wasn’t unexpected. By that time, I was used to rejections, so it was just another publisher knocked off the list, and a mental note of they were not the right one for me after all.

I set off to find another reputable publisher, one that accepted stories less than 90 thousand words, and had some really rough language into it.

I was looking at one in particular, an American press, but there was a Canadian one that kept bringing me back. Finally, I decided to research this particular house and see if my little story would meet submission guidelines.

I sent it to them on a whim the first week of October 2016, after changing the name to “STRICKEN” at the last minute. (((Yes, it is named after the song by Disturbed. Once you read the story, listen to the second verse of the song. You will get why I chose that name for my first book.)))

That “Canadian House” was eXtasy Books, in British Columbia, on the opposite coast...

I didn’t expect much, and decided to focus on Halloween Havoc, which was coming up in a few weeks.

October 29, 2016 is a day I will never forget. I was giving myself a manicure with purple polish, and I got an email from the Acquisitions Editor at eXtasy Books. I suspected another rejection and opened it.

I had to read it at least six times before it sank in.

CONTRACT OFFER.

Seriously? They liked it?

My book. Really?

No way.

WAY.

I signed the contract in November of 2016, and things went from there – editing, approval of the cover, revisions galore, and finally, approving the final copy just a couple of hours before the book went LIVE.

Stricken came out on March 17, 2017, as an e-book on eXtasy Books’ website, and was released on other e-book sites like Amazon and Kobo on March 26, 2017.

When I first came up with the idea for this story in 2010, it wasn’t supposed to be this short - under 60K word count - or only cover 6 months. All loose ends were supposed to be somewhat tied up at the end. Instead there, are still a few questions... But they are not to be answered now, if ever.

I look back at the last six and a half years, and I’m still shocked that all of the work for that story is finally done. I’ve had the two mains in my head for years, and it’s not easy letting them out into the wide world. It just amazes me how much this story has evolved, same with my writing. I think if I hadn’t written its original version or the ABOMINATION ("Family Portraits" - it was written as a sequel for the original version of Stricken, but it will *never* see the light of day, it is HORRIBLE!), I wouldn’t have learned anything, nor would I be the author I am today. 



**********************

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I am still in shock that despite everything - health problems (occipital neuralgia, diabetes, anemia, and everything else), trying to run a house, taking care of a child on the autism spectrum, and so many other things - I still managed to write this book (twice!), edit it, get rejections galore, and STILL found a publisher that loved it! 

This was done writing part time - think maybe one or two days a week if I was lucky - and while fighting an occipital neuralgia flare up every day I was writing and when I wasn't. I wasn't going to let something like my neuralgia - which is extremely painful and debilitating - keep me from reaching my dream of having one book published by a traditional house in my lifetime.

No excuses. Either do it or stop writing completely. 

I chose to keep going.

I am to keep going even with my occipital neuralgia worsening to the point of needing nerve blocks so I can at least function.

I will never give up on getting another book finished and published. Nor will I give up on improving my skills as an author, or stop writing the love stories I want to give to my fans.

Once again, I would like to thank eXtasy Books for giving me a chance. ♥

Have a great weekend everyone! Don't forget to check out the amazing authors at eXtasy Books and Devine Destinies... You may find a new favorite! ;) 

I leave you with the song that gave me the name for my first book - "STRICKEN" by Disturbed. I think David Draiman has some of the best pipes in the business... I adore this band!

HELL YEAH BABY!!!



Thursday, March 15, 2018

Posture Perfect

Things have been so crazy here! First of all, it's March Break, and that means I'm dealing with a goofy teenager all day instead of only part of it. Hubby had a mishap and that means I've been in charge of taking care of HIS end of things like shopping and such as well as my own stuff. 

PLUS we had a nor'easter here on Tuesday, and the power went out at 7 p.m. that day... It didn't come on again until 11:20 this morning. That's over 40 hours without power, folks! 

I did get in some reading while the power was out... Two books, but this is the one I really want to show off:

SQUEE!!!

Heh. YES, it does have a LOT more than the movie did, and I am grateful for it. It explained and showed stuff that should have made the final cut. 

Overall, I think I actually liked the book better, despite it being one of Mark Hamill's best performances to date. 

ROUNDUP!

The first round of nerve blocks wore off around 2 weeks after I got them... So that meant another trip in to see my specialist, on February 14th.

Four weeks, one day later, I'm still pain free for the most part. Now I do have a sinus headache and some shooting pains associated with nerves in my face, but that is *nothing* compared to what I've gone through with the occipital neuralgia. 

I'm so darn grateful for the nerve blocks because I don't think I could have managed everything that's happened the last two weeks without some sort of relief from the neuralgia. That stuff is PAINFUL. 

In between things, I've still managed to get some work done on the first book of the "Something About" series (edits, and revisions, plus a LOT of eliminating!), plot a few things for Fourteen (companion book to another one) AND start looking for ideas for books 2 and three of the "Something About" series.

PHYSIOTHERAPY - I started on February 13th, and it's not just acupuncture as the specialist ordered. Apparently if one slouches, it pulls on the muscles that are around the C2 vertebra, where the occipital nerves exit the spinal column, which can compress the nerves and therefore aggravate the occipital neuralgia to the point where one cannot function.

So..... I'm now doing resistance training to strengthen the muscles in my back, and I am now in the middle of training myself to hold my back and neck perfectly straight when I'm sitting or standing/walking. 

It IS helping, a LOT. Or I think it is. It's kind of hard to tell when the nerve blocks are still working... LOL

In conjunction with the physiotherapy and nerve blocks/injections, I made a huge decision about something a couple of weeks ago.........

I chopped off my hair. 

(Did some of you faint?)

Seriously. It was waist length, straggly, thin, fine and FRIED from the medications I'm on as well as being dyed so many times. I used a TON of conditioner every time I washed my hair. It tangled easily, felt hot and heavy, and was driving me bananas... Despite how thin and fine it really is. 

It also made my occipital neuralgia go crazy when I pulled it back into a ponytail, because it pulled on the scalp, and therefore aggravated the nerves. Having it short makes it so much easier to get the injections, not so much hair to wade through either.

Today, I went to the salon and a good friend of ours, Susie, cut it for me. We were not sure what to do with it first - she and the other girl in there (another longtime pal of ours named Crystal) just about fainted when I said I wanted it SHORT. We talked it over for a few minutes, and settled on an angled bob. 

If anyone watched Orphan Black, look at Rachel's hair. That's an angled bob, and I loved her hairstyle. That's exactly what I have now, except mine isn't as thick as hers was.

It needs another dye job, due to the amount of roots I'm showing, but overall, it's awesome. and I love it. 

Front.

Back!
Side view!

Just for reference, here's a before photo, from last year...




Note how my ponytail is ultra thin in that one (ironically from a year ago on Saturday...)

I feel so much LIGHTER! I think I lost about a foot of hair, and about a pound or two from my head alone. It feels so much better too, no dead ends, no broken parts, no fried areas, nothing but soft, healthy and easy to maintain hair. 

I don't know if my mom saw the photos on Facebook or not, but I'm betting she's going to be shocked. I've had long hair as long as I can remember... The shortest it's been since I was a toddler was when I was 12, it was about shoulder length then. It's been longer than that for over 30 years now.

It was past time for a change. Way past it.

I'm glad I did it. No more fried hair for this little metal chick!

On a final note, a HUGE CONGRATS to my friend Maggie. YOU DID IT GIRL! (She knows what I mean!)

I leave you with my favorite song by Heart. "Alone".




Sunday, January 21, 2018

Occipital Neuralgia and More...

Confession time.

I have more than one chronic illness, as some of you know. What a lot of you don't know is exactly what it entails.

It's called Occipital Neuralgia, and it can be quite disabling.

The Occipital Neuralgia Awareness Ribbon.

Occipital neuralgia is basically a type of migraine, but it doesn't happen in the actual skull, it happens in the scalp. It is caused by four nerves, two on each side: the lesser occipital nerve which goes up the outside of the back part of the head, closer to the ears, and the greater occipital nerves, which go up the back of the head parallel to each side of the spine.

When those nerves get injured, compressed, and irritated, they can cause a permanent headache, as well as "zinging" and burning pain along each of the nerves - I liken it to an AC current. It goes one way, then the other, back and forth along the nerves. It goes up the back of the head through the scalp, across the top of the head, and into the forehead and behind the eyes. Sometimes only one side is affected, others, both are. 

Here's a diagram showing the location of the occipital nerves:



It can "flare" up, meaning instead of the usual amount of pain from it - a five to six in my case - it can go to a 10 or higher on the pain scale. Think flat on one's back, and not even prescription pain medications will put a dent in it.

According to www.hopkinsmedicine.org, occipital neuralgia can make the scalp so sensitive to touch that combing the hair, washing the hair, or laying on a pillow can be "nearly impossible" due to the amount of pain one has. 

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia include:



I have pretty much every symptom on that list, especially when I am in the middle of a flare up. I wear sunglasses even during a blizzard or hurricane outside, and I have a constant headache. I've had this since I was a child... I've learned how to avoid triggers for it over the years, and I've also learned that the instant things start going crazy to just lay down and think happy thoughts - after popping a few ASA pills. I can't take anything prescription wise due to my son, and anything other than ASA either doesn't work or gives me a bad reaction... So ASA it is, and yes, it does work. Sometimes. It brings things down to a manageable level.

Up until a few months ago, I was managing without a lot of intervention. I could function with the pain until I got a bad flare up, then I'd have to sleep it off with ice packs wrapped around my head in a dark room. 

However, around the middle of November, I started noticing that it was on almost a constant flare up. It seemed I couldn't go three days without being flat on my back for a few hours, or I was flaring almost constantly. I finally gave in and said I need help.

Hubby noted that when I say I need help with my occipital neuralgia, it's BAD... Bad enough that I was almost begging for something like morphine.

I hate prescription pain killers for the record, and narcotics in general - I had a bad reaction to morphine during labor with my son - so when I say I'll even take a shot of morphine or stronger, I am in so much pain that I am willing to do almost anything to stop it.... I can take a *LOT* before I get there. 

So I talked to my family doctor, and she made arrangements for me to try something different - a nerve block. What happens is the doctor injects some kind of local anesthesia into the nerves, and hopefully after the initial overall numbness wears off, the nerves have calmed down enough that they are not causing any zapping pains.

I saw the doctor for this eleven days ago, on January 10th, in Dartmouth. I am terrified of needles in general, despite getting tons of them in the last few years due to the diabetes, so of course, I was shaking like a leaf when I went in.

We went over my history then he did an exam of my neck, shoulders and head, with pokes and a LOT of pushing on various areas to see what hurt and what didn't. The instant he hit the greater occipital nerves, I yelped. It shot a HUGE zap along both of the nerves so painful that I saw stars. 

It's definitely occipital neuralgia. That was the test for it.

I got the nerve blocks that day. It hurt like heck going in, but after about a minute or so, I wasn't feeling much. 

After the second side was done, I sat up, caught my breath and moved my head around. 

Nothing. Not even a teeny zing.

It was the least amount of pain I had in my head in about 35 years. I felt fantastic!

You could have cracked me in the back of the head with a 2 by 4, and I probably wouldn't have felt it for a few hours after that!

Four hours was the tell... If it wore off and I got the zinging again, that particular nerve block wasn't going to work for me. I would have to get something different like cortisone. That hurts even more.... 

I was also given an order for acupuncture via physiotherapy. I'm now waiting for the call to go in and start the sessions. I can't wait!

Eleven days later... I'm still without the zapping. No dull ache. No pain in the eyes.

NOTHING.

I'm now wondering why I didn't do this sooner. This is freaking awesome! I can think without hurting for the first time in ages!

In fact, I am feeling so darn good that I've decided to catch up on a lot of things I've been neglecting for the last while... I've been putting off doing a lot of reorganizing and rearranging things in the kitchen. I finally got around to doing it this week, and the place looks amazing! 

I wanted a new office... I was right in the walkway in the cubby hole opposite the stairs. It was cramped, cluttered, drafty and my son could easily read over my shoulder... Not good! I was fed up and finally decided to switch things around.

My new office is in the corner of the kitchen, on the kitchen table. It's warmer, more private, and best of all, no stairs for the damn cat to run up and use as a platform for dive bombing. To my back is the eastern wall of the kitchen, and to my right is the northern wall. The table is facing the back of the house, I can see the entire room from here, including Amber's sleeping box with her blankie into it. 


My old Pentium 90 is still here, and still works. That's what's under the monitor. 

Amber isn't impressed. She can no longer sit on top of the monitor and look out the window. I said she can go suck cat litter if she doesn't like it. 

She does still sit on top of the monitor though, as y'all can see...


Me and my purple.... LOL

So I thought the dive bombing had come to an end without stairs to use as a platform.

WRONG.


What you are seeing is my printer on top of the old tower for my Vista system - the one that originally housed the hard drive that's now in my current system. This is to the direct left of my computer chair. In fact I was in the chair when I took this photo... Just to give everyone a perspective of how things are here. Behind the curtain in the back is the old computer area and stairway.

Anyway... Amber now likes to sit on the printer and look out the window.

However, she realized I was sitting here the other day, and the next thing I knew, I had a cat flying for my head.

Again.  *head desk*

I still say that crazy kitty is trying to kill me... I never thought I'd be dive bombed after moving the computer. Seriously.

Guess I shouldn't have told her to go suck cat litter, eh? *SIGH* 

Idiot cat.

Have a great week everyone, I'll be posting another update about the writing soon!

I leave you with another song by GHOST... "Ritual". Enjoy!!