Skip to content

Author: Jessica

The Start of a New Month

A new month begins. Actually it began yesterday, but I have found that being quiet online during April Fool’s Day is probably best. (Incidentally, whether it is a good day or not depends largely on who you are around.)

March was a full month with good surprises and bad. I spent a fair portion of it ill unfortunately. Influenza slipped around, and I managed to catch it. Or rather it caught me. But given I only had two migraines in addition to that, the month was fairly good.
Indeed March wound up being a month rich in reflection. The older I get, the more messy I realize life is. It’s not about getting things perfect. It’s about muddling through, correcting course, and moving on. The importance of grace, love, and mercy increases by the day.

With April comes the full revelation of spring. Chives and daffodils already poke their thick green stems up from the soil I have hopes and dreams for this month and more. I am grateful. I am moving forward.

Writing with a Migraine: A Few Tips on Coping

Over the past two months, I’ve had many visits from a friend I really wish would leave: the good old migraine.

Now, as I have discovered from my fellow migraine sufferers, each migraine is just a little bit different. Whether vision gets stripy or nausea roils the stomach or simple shafts of yellow-white light induce agonizing beats, the pain is the one constant. And boy…is it constant.

Since about the middle of December, I’ve averaged about one migraine a week. They have been lasting about three days, but the last one stretched on for almost an entire week. So, in between migraines, I did research into what I could do to minimize the pain.

Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned that help me cope when the migraines strike.

As Much Water As You Can

glass with cola and ice  in water splash
glass with cola and ice in water splash

A couple friends told me that for every painful spasm, I should take three good-sized gulps of water. That helped somewhat for obvious reasons. It was temping at the worst movements to just lie motionless and not drink because I knew if I drank, I would have to go to the bathroom.

But you must drink the water. You absolutely must. On the one time when I skipped it out of sheer exhaustion, I paid so dearly. It absolutely wasn’t worth it.

Add Lemon and a Little Salt to Your Water

I discovered this one by accident. Most mornings, I try to start my day with a large glass of ice water with a generous tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. To my surprise, I got some more intensive relief from my migraine with this. Before I had just chosen pure water.

Much to my surprise, I also discovered that this is supposed to be a cure-all though some offer cautions. Now, in my case, this didn’t cure the migraine, but it sanded the edges off. It also seems key that you use Himalayan or sea salt rather than table salt.

Avoid Bright Screens or Blue-Light Screens

The majority of tech devices utilize blue-light. In addition to causing problems with sleep cycle, I have found that looking at any screen with a blue-light intensifies my pain even more than the soft yellow bathroom light. The one exception was if I had the screen turned down to the absolute lowest, I could be on my phone for about 5, 10 minutes at most. Then it would cut through.

On the days when I avoided those screens entirely, the pain receded to a more manageable rate.

Have a Soothing Hobby to Fall Back On

Balls of wool on wooden table background
Balls of wool on wooden table background

Perhaps what stresses me most about migraine days is the horrible inactivity. I have found great comfort in curling up on the couch and knitting with the lights way down. Crocheting is a tad more challenging for me though others love it, and I’ve chatted with some friends who also enjoy sketching and coloring. I imagine that that soft shoosh shoosh of pencil on paper is quite soothing.

Embroidery, tatting, and other close eyed needlework may not be the best choice for obvious reasons.

Reading surprisingly works best for me is when I do it on my Kindle. The screen is sufficiently darkened and the contrast low enough that it doesn’t hurt. As for audiobooks, I’ve found that it is the voice of the narrator that makes all the difference there. Shrill or high voices can be unbearable. And I suspect my preference for deeper voices may be just as much because they don’t hurt my head.

Sadly, I did not find cooking to be as useful of a soothing hobby at the worst of migraines though at other times it is one of my passions. The smells of the cooking foods can sometimes turn me to vomiting. Same with baking. But it might be different for you. (Same goes for sniffing peppermint which is soothing for some people with migraines.)

Write on Yellow or Green Paper

Perhaps it’s the glare of the light on the paper, but writing on white paper made it even more difficult for me to focus because the pain worsened. However, I found that when I wrote in my steno pads (sunglasses placed firmly over my eyes), it wasn’t nearly so bad. In fact, I was able to write long enough to get most of the required tasks done and even some of my stories, and whenever I can sink into my stories, I disappear into another world entirely and leave all but the faintest traces behind.

Sunglasses, All the Time

This is an old one, but it’s worth mentioning here: sunglasses help protect against light sensitivity. But do watch out how tightly they fit your face. I’ve had some that hit those pressure points just above my ears so perfectly that they managed to intensify the migraine with awful accuracy. But you don’t have to invest in an expensive pair of sunglasses to get the benefits. I just use a pair of cheap wraparounds that I got at a gas station in an emergency (of course I got a migraine after I lost mine and we were on the road and headed into snow).

I even wear them indoors and just around the house. And yes, sometimes people will comment and try to make jokes about it or oddly try to get me to remove them, but if I explain, “it’s for a migraine,” they usually accept that.

As an aside, I have found that if I must be on the computer or my phone for longer than a few minutes, then a pair of sunglasses can make a tremendous difference. I still can’t work as I normally do, but I can do some of it.

The sunglasses are often enough to let me get through most of the cleaning and tidying.

Meditation and Prayer with Measured Breaths

Focusing one’s thoughts elsewhere can be greatly soothing, but getting there when in the middle of a lot of pain is so hard. One would think that having dealt with chronic pain for years that it would be easier, and I suppose, in a sense, it is. But sometimes, in the grips of a horrid migraine, all I can do is grip my head and think about what shapes the pain looks like stabbing my brain.

I’ve found that it does help me to pray and meditate though it is admittedly difficult to get started. I don’t have a particular favorite verse. Each day I find a new one or a particular thought to focus on. And sometimes my prayers are just “Oh God, please let it stop hurting. Please let it stop hurting.”

Digitally generated Take a deep breath vector

I have also found that focusing on my breathing helps too. I tend to breathe shallowly as the pain intensifies. But as the pain strikes, if I focus on slowing my breaths, keeping them deep and steady, and going over verses and prayers, it can help significantly.

Cold Showers and Cold Presses

The hot/cold debate is one a lot of migraine fighters discuss, and I think it’s a matter of preference.

If I can, and sometimes that’s a big if, a cold shower can help a great deal. I can’t get into frigid water straight away. But lukewarm and gradually turning to cold with the water driving down on the back of my neck works best for me. Cold washcloths to the forehead and neck are also soothing. But sometimes this can make me chill so badly that it creates other issues.

However, hot water makes mine much, much worse, so I must avoid that. I have one friend whose migraines are relieved by super hot showers, and I must confess, I’m envious.

Another friend recommended putting an ice pack on the back of the neck and then sticking one’s hands and feet in warm water. This didn’t work for me, but it might work for you.

Yoga, Pilates, and Strength Training

The older I get, the more I love exercising. Even when I can only do it in short batches and it doesn’t lead to the weight loss I want. And I have found that even on migraine days, if I can get up and do some stretches and even more advanced moves, that that makes it easier to get through the day.

This may have something to do with redirecting blood flow. Or it might be the endorphin release. Some professionals have suggested both. I usually don’t run on migraine days or even attempt the barre workouts. If I get particularly brave, I might.

But, for me, I look at these migraine days as being similar to the days when the pain from the fibro and so on becomes incredibly intense. As much as possible, I try to keep some semblance of normalcy and take care of my body. Exercising has so many other benefits that it is worth it to fight through the pain as much as possible.

And obviously I should conclude this saying that you should go to a doctor if you have continued migraines. Sometimes migraines are a symptom of something else, and it’s important to get that looked at.

So these are some of the things that I’ve found do work for me. There are many other techniques, and if you are a chronic migraine sufferer, I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to share some of your own tips if you’d like.

And hopefully you won’t have to use any of these tips any time soon. Have a beautiful day, my friends. Talk to you again soon.

What This Week May Hold 01 23 – 01 30, 2017

Whale Breaching Whale Hello There

So starts a new week.

That’s one of my favorite things about Monday, you know. The fact that it is the beginning of a new week. I suppose I could say that my week actually starts on Sunday. Sundays are one of the busiest days out of the week for me and my family because of church and church activities.  So I prefer to look at Monday as my start with Sunday as something of an in between.

These are some of the things this week will hold.

Announcement of the 2016 TNT Horror Contest Grand Prize Winner

In fairness, this was supposed to be announced on the 18th. But they needed more time to figure this out. So it’s very much a hope that they will make the announcement this week, not a guarantee.

*phew Cue the rattling of xylophonic nerves clanging up and down my back. I’m vacillating between happy thoughts and worst case scenarios.

House in the RainOn the bright side, all nine of my competitors are lovely people. I’m not going to pretend I don’t want to win (I do), but there is comfort in knowing that no matter who wins, the grand prize is going to someone I like. (One of the downsides of competing too much with your enemies is that if you lose, it smarts doubly.)

But hopefully they will release the details and make the formal announcement soon. And hopefully they will let us know.

Either way…it’s going to be all right. More great opportunities to practice patience, trust, and think with joy.

Another Short Story

I hadn’t done it intentionally but I have drafted a short story each week this month. Actually I’m up to five at this point.

For the longest time, writing short stories was almost impossible for me. They kept growing and expanding, and over the past few months, it has suddenly become much easier. It’s always been true that short stories are capsules of a larger tale. They are a window that we use to look in on a small bit of a character’s life. But, perhaps it was greed or ignorance or both, I always struggled to get this into my stories.

I would start off with a short and then, as I reached the main points, it expanded. Sometimes writing is like wrestling an anaconda that’s in the middle of a growth spurt. I have realized that I am dreadful when it comes to accurately estimating how many words are needed in a story.

But I am getting better at cutting a story off and saying, “no, no, it’s enough to look at this point. I don’t have to catch it all. Just this portion.” And when I find myself resisting this, I remind myself that I can always come back and reveal more of the story later. Setting many of these shorts in the same world has also reduced pressure.

Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories.Ray Bradbury once said, “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” I can be a bit of a contrarian. But I’m hoping in this case, he’s correct.

Catch Up With the Paperwork

Maybe I’ll never really be caught up. Each day I try to take five minutes and clear off my work space, file the papers I have, and prep for the next day. The key word here is try.

If you could see my desk right now. I have three mugs, two water bottles, a stack of five notebooks, the checkbook register, and a mass of loose leaf papers. Not to mention a dozen or so pens and pencils clattering around my laptop and probably four or five cat toys I can’t even see.

Paperwork, particularly on the law firm side of things, always backs up. Not that it’s so good on the writing side of things. I have a whole box of notebooks that need to be transcribed. A few of my novels are hand drafted in there, and they have no backups. Prince of the Waters Below, Phoenix Shattered, Why Am I On a Quest with a Minotaur, String of Pearls, and a couple others are hopefully in that bin. I’m not entirely certain.

Anyway I’d like to get the mountains under control. All the loose leaf paper is probably the highest priority, particularly given that my cats like skiing through the mounds of paper.

For Mercy’s Sake, Woman, Promote Something

I abhor promotions, and there’s really no good reason. They don’t have to be intrusive. They aren’t bad. But it’s easier for me to find excuses not to promote one of my stories than it is for me to find excuses not to run.

I am actually taking a couple courses that help with promotions and advertisings. And I just have to get over this hump. It’s utterly psychological, and even though I don’t feel like other authors who do this are horrible, some secret part of me must believe that I will become some greasy haired, mustachio twirling troll (and trust me, I don’t look particularly fetching in a mustache).Octopus Running Nope 2

So I figure I’ll tackle this the same way I tackled running and spiders. One little step at a time. Scream. Flail. One more step. Repeat.

Wrapping Up Projects

I thrive having multiple projects to work on. When I get stuck on one, I slide over to the next one. The one downside to this is that I have many projects open, and I would like to get some of them done.

Sometimes having multiple projects open like this makes me feel overwhelmed when combined with other situations. So…it’d be nice to wrap some of these up more.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great week. I have many more goals, but these are just some of the highlights. What about you? What are you looking forward to in this next week for you?

Nanowrimo Update and Finally Breaking Through the Political Writing Block

Well, Nanowrimo continues on. I’m well past the 50,000 word goal at this point, but I stopped tracking word counts on November 7, I’m afraid. So I’m not sure how much farther I am. I think it’s probably about another 30 k just in totaling up everything that I have put into Google Docs.

The thing is that most of it is unusable. Well, at least for now. It’s turned decidedly political as you might have noticed if you’re on this blog. Hopefully it has been more productive rather than being simply cathartic, though, in fairness, I am writing these more for myself and my own processing than other people’s benefit. Maybe they’re beneficial. So far I’ve written about voters on both sides, abstaining from votes, women in positions of leadership, third-party voters, what does action and speaking up actually mean, is speaking up sometimes counterproductive, does past behavior excuse current, and some other matters. Obviously not all of these have been posted here. On the bright side, I’m doing better about promoting what I write. Hopefully more of that resistance fades in time.  

There have been a lot of new questions that have popped into my head, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people from different backgrounds. Over time, I’ll work through more of these questions and issues. Hopefully. Or I’ll just compile research, file it away, and then do something with it later. Some of these questions aren’t easily answered, and that’s all right.

On an entirely personal note only marginally related to the political developments in this nation, I found myself stuck with Insurgent Queen. Most of the time, Tue-Rah is my safe haven for creative development, but, for whatever reason, I just wasn’t able to make progress. I wrote little more than 100 words a day on it since Tuesday.

It took me almost four hours to write this chapter, even though it was less than 2000 words in length. I don’t particularly care for that. Granted, it would have gone faster if I wasn’t listening to the news, but I have been very bad about leaving that on. The constant chatter of various pundits and reporters and Youtubers is such that it does prevent swift thought, but I’ve been more addicted than usual to the information sources.

That’s going to have to change starting tomorrow. Constant information streams, while addictive, are massively counterproductive. I need to be informed, yes. But not at the cost of everything else.

I think I’m also a little bit behind on the number of posts that I need to make to hit the 30 on my website or Youtube. But I’m not too concerned about that.

Well, that’s enough musing for tonight. Talk to you all later. Have a blessed evening.

Of Those Who Abstain from Voting

survey-1594962Those who lost in the presidential election are eager to find shoulders on which to place the blame. While some have considered whether it was partially the DNC for choosing to back Hillary Clinton (even though now in hindsight they admit she was a weak candidate choice), others tend to lean toward two camps of scapegoats: those who abstained from voting and those who voted third-party.

I’ll cover third-party voters in another post. This one is going to focus on those who abstained from voting.

In the 2016 election, a little over 46% of American citizens did not vote.(Incidentally, it should also be noted that overall voter turnout, despite there being many new registered voters, was down this year as from previous general elections.)

The general assumption and condemnation thrown toward abstainers is that they don’t care about the country or are too lazy to participate or are morally degenerate. And sure, there may be some who don’t vote because they are apathetic, but I’ve actually found far more who have other reasons for not voting. And the majority of these individuals are not morally degenerate. They’re upstanding citizens who have their own perspective on our government and the voting process.

Voting is a right in this nation, not a duty. Some people claim that it is a moral duty and the responsibility of all those who live within this democratic republic, but there are legitimate reasons why some might choose to abstain and why it shouldn’t be condemned. In fact, it is actually just as much your right to not vote as it is your right to vote so long as you are the one who is making the decision.  

The importance of the ability to abstain has been confirmed to me in this election. Most people would agree, leading up to November 8, that there were two horrible choices (some people were rooting for a gigantic meteor to strike). And these are some of the reasons people might have chosen to abstain in this election and others.

Religious Tradition

Many religious traditions that prohibit voting do not just prohibit voting. They prohibit participation in most government forums and have done so for centuries. The reasons are many: 1) focuses should be on matters other than the physical world, 2) human governments are corrupt, 3) human governments sow division and discord, 4) governments cannot or will not promote complete pacifism, and so on.bible-428947

Many Christian traditions, from the Anabaptists to Seventh Day Adventists to the Doukhobors, likewise abstain from political involvement from voting to running for political office though each one has varying degrees. When I was researching this, I stumbled across this quote from John D. Roth, “Voting, after all, is not just a ‘right.’ It is also a ‘rite’ — a ritual of identity and loyalty binding the individual to the nation. Abstaining from presidential elections could signal to our children and to the global church that our first loyalty is to the worldwide fellowship of Christian believers, not to the nation-state.” This is a common refrain in various forms across the religious traditions. The need for internal consistency, conscientious integrity, and so on override government participation (even when that sometimes leads to their formal or informal persecution). While there are many sections in Scripture that these individuals rely on for their position, many return to John 18:36 with Jesus’s statement that His kingdom is not of this world” as well as his lack of overall political involvement. This has softened somewhat in recent years becoming more of a personal choice of conviction with some while with others such as the Amish it remains true.

Buddhism can also be interpreted to be against political involvement, at least for monks.  The Buddha said that monks should not speak about such things, suggesting that there are other more beneficial topics to consider.  But many do engage in politics so long as they can make informed decisions and their consciences are at ease (which is often not an easy matter to resolve). However, it is still a source of frequent conversation and a matter that is often brought up for reflection given the fact that the government does not reflect most Buddhist teachings.

Even Islam has discussions on this topic. While some Muslims insist that voting and participating in political processes is essential, others maintain that it is essentially a form of idolatry because it places human laws above the law of Allah. A number of these individuals point to Surah Tawbah 9:31 where those who revere rabbis and monks are actually committing a form of idolatry with their reverence.

In my brief research binge on religious traditions that abstain from voting, I found a number of others including early Rastafarianism, Shaykhism, Baha’i Faith, Taoists, and some segments of Usuli. I’m sure that there are others. These all appear to be rooted in the same motivations and butterfly-1717300_1920concerns: compassion, harmony, and conviction.

Also, it’s important to note that there are many agnostics and atheists who abstain from voting for similar reasons without requiring a religious or spiritual mandate. They are often pacifists who focus on what is similar rather than dissimilar, promoting harmony and civil discourse.

 

Note: I am not sure what percentage of those who abstained from voting falls  into these categories. I did ask a couple of my friends who do follow the “no voting” policy and “no government involvement” whether they register to vote and if so why but I did not get a response yet. If I do get a response and their permission to share it here, I’ll add that later.

For some this may be as simple as conversion after already being registered to vote.

Inability to Agree with Candidates

In some cases, even those who vote may find certain issues that are essentially dealbreakers. In this last election, there were many people who could not bring themselves to vote for either of the two major candidates and who were unwilling to vote for the third-parties either due to their beliefs about their ineffectiveness or lack of agreement on third-party stances as well.

These individuals see their votes as being an outright endorsement of the candidate’s beliefs and practices. Others do not, claiming things such as “lesser of two evils”and “pragmatism.” (In fact, one of the things that we are seeing in this election is a loud set of voices insisting this very thing, that all Trump voters believe what the media says Trump believes and all the things that Trump has said. It may be being said about Clinton voters, but I haven’t seen that one.) Total harmonious agreement is often not the case when it comes to conscience and politics. While some can parse out what they agree with, focus on those issues, and rearrange their priorities, others cannot.

Making Another Statement

Some people choose to refrain from voting to make a point. That point might be because they cannot support any of the candidates, because of the parties’ treatment of their constituencies, or because of general dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Now, you might be arguing that in all of these regards, voting would be the more productive method for enacting change but not from these people’s perspectives.

Such individuals tend to be quite pragmatic (at least the ones I know), and that extends to the apple-455436time that they invest in various causes or endeavors. If you believe that the government is irrevocably corrupt, you may not see any benefit in putting your time into the system. You may then put your time and efforts elsewhere. Often these individuals do make public the fact that they did not vote and why, which can be helpful for cultivating change.

Seeing their votes as not being counted may be another reason. This sometimes stems from a misunderstanding of what the electoral college does or an outright disagreement with it. But again, another conversation for another day.

Inability to Make an Informed Decision

Now by this, I don’t mean that these people are stupid. Far from it. But the voting process, whether on legislation or representatives, can be a difficult path to navigate if you want to be informed. Many are inclined to assume that they know everything about a situation and can cast an informed vote, but, if random interviews on the street are any indication of current political intelligence, that is not the case.

Becoming informed on key issues is quite the minefield that does take time. Bias exists everywhere along with misinformation and propaganda. Take this last election for example. If you have the time, go pull up media reports and stories from the opposing perspectives (definitely do not rely on the mainstream media for this). Look at the vastly different information being presented.

This disparity of perspective to reality is exceptionally jarring. Even as an involved voter who reads as much as she can get her hands on, I have to confess…sometimes I don’t know if I am making an informed decision, I’m just shooting in the dark and hoping I make the right call.

Not surprisingly, some people decide that they do not have time to make an informed decision…often because they do not have the time, and so, rather than risk making a situation worse, they abstain.

Anecdotally, one of the first that comes to my mind is a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. She cares for her mother while also teaching. I’ve offered to help how I can, but in our conversations, she’s admitted that she is just, at the moment, too emotionally exhausted to get involved. And that is all right. She is doing everything she can at the moment. Political involvement is not a requirement to be a good citizen/person/steward.no-1532842_1920

One Small Caveat

If you are someone who chooses to abstain from voting but publicly criticizes the government, it may be beneficial to explain why you abstain and what can still be done to impact the government or what you believe the steps should be. Otherwise, and perhaps even so, you may be accused of hypocrisy.

Concluding Thoughts

There are many reasons that almost half of American citizens did not vote, and it isn’t indefensible. The United States of America is a country that supposedly embraces many beliefs. And while it can be argued that the US cannot accept beliefs that are antithetical to its core, the decision to abstain from voting is  certainly not one of those.

The reality is that we cannot say for certain how those voters would have cast their votes if they had been compelled to vote against their consciences, priorities, and beliefs. But we cannot simply assume that those who did not vote simply did not care. They do not deserve to be blamed for following their convictions, nor should it be assumed that they are not valuable members of our society. If someone states that they didn’t vote just because they don’t care, by all means, politely engage and discuss the reasons. But abstention from voting is not proof that someone is bad, immoral, lazy, or apathetic.

Some Thoughts on the Election and Moving Forward

The election results are in, and to say that they took most by surprise would be as big an understatement as saying that 2016 has been a bizarre year.

Personally, I was not thrilled about either of our two primary candidates. (Part of me still wonders how it is that we reached this point, but that is another conversation for another day.) Since last night, I have received dozens of messages from people on all points of the political spectrum, many relaying fears and concerns. I’ve been thinking about these conversations and trying to break down what all this means.

I am a cynical idealist who chooses to be an optimist (though sometimes cynicism wins the day). I rely on my faith to give me hope, and, in fairness, I would probably be writing something similar if Hillary Clinton won with the exception of maybe a couple paragraphs. I don’t believe that the sky is falling nor do I believe that the world or even America is ending.

These are some thoughts on how we can move forward as a nation. (My apologies for the length. As Joan Didion said, “I write to know what I think.”)

If you don’t want to read all this, I understand, so the headings/overview is below:

  1. Abandon Fear
  2. Listen
  3. Act
  4. Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges
  5. Hold Assumptions Loosely
  6. Don’t Demonize the Independents
  7. Look for the Helpers
  8. The Burden is on Us (Regardless of Party or Voting Choice)
  9. Remain Aware and Active

Abandon Fear

We shouldn’t spread fear and terror, and we should be careful of the “what ifs.” (That includes what we tell our young children; they don’t need to bear all the burdens of the world though it is good to keep them informed.) Even if it should be revealed that we are right about that which we fear, what have we gained? Nothing. (Now this is not to say that we should do nothing or that in abandoning fear we become complacent, docile, or inactive, but more on that later.)

Fear is a natural response and an instinct to dangerous and unknown situations. In a survival situation such as a snake attack, the adrenaline surge combined with fear can, in some cases, make you fast enough to avoid getting bit. (And in some cases, that adrenaline surge triggers the freeze response, resulting in death.)

However, in social situations such as this latest election, fearful responses rarely lead to good results. And this is because fear makes us easier to control, easier to manipulate, easier to defeat. Mob mentality is borne most often out of fear or anger. Neither are good.

Fear alone does not make us smarter. Left unchecked it leaves us demoralized, weakened, and vulnerable. We react, lash out, and leave ourselves more vulnerable than when we started. It can also feed into other narratives and lead to further destruction, less communication, and more slipping.

Instead, we must be vigilant. Aware. Awake. Active.

The reality is that we should be this way no matter who is running the government and no matter where we are. Politicians are rarely the people we hope they will be even when we most deeply support them. They make back room deals. They wield influence, trade favors, deceive people, manipulate outcomes, and oh so much more.

I am of the belief that none of them should be trusted. They should be watched, regarded with caution, and held accountable, regardless of the affiliations they proclaim. The same is true for businesses large and small. I suppose that while I have hope for the best in people, I also recognize the worst.

Now for many, this fearful response is churning even now. It’s hard to control, and some are already comparing Trump to Hitler and engaging in high levels of hyperbole just as others are proclaiming the start of a new and wondrous world and some are certain it will be business as usual and possibly the majority are just not sure what to expect. (In fairness, I suspect both extremes will see these beliefs challenged, moderated, and shrunk when they are actually tested.)

And if the fearful response isn’t riling up inside, we should encourage our fellow Americans and friends from around the world.  Many are genuinely terrified and even more don’t know what to expect. This is a good time for compassion, mercy, and kindness.

So if fear cannot be stopped from cropping up, what can we do? We can take that fear we feel and channel it into motivation. Not letting it cloud our senses or creating worse situations than what already exists. We need our wits about us, and we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Listen

We do have to listen, and that is one thing that we don’t do particularly well. On most points of the spectrum, many of us said what we wanted and avoided listening as much as we could. Or when we did listen, we translated what we heard into something that made sense to us based on our ideologies. This isn’t really listening, though it should be noted that listening, truly listening, does not mean necessarily agreeing.

In talking with people on all sides of this election, I can say that it isn’t so simple as racism, sexism, or any of the isms. I suspect there are some people for whom that was a deciding factor, but not all, and I would venture to say not even most. And I do see why some fear that this is the case. But if we ask what this is election is about (what is the core issue), we get vastly different answers from different groups, some of whom are unaware of the other issues or are unable to see their importance. In fact the general suspicion about the media has led to a general disbelief among many against just about anything it reports, which makes the results even more convoluted. (Again what people perceive to be the truth and what they thought was a smear campaign as well as the overall media involvement is best saved for another discussion.)

It is all too easy for people at all points to write all the others off with some simple phrase that we feel captures the entirety of their situation. But when is life really as simple as that?

There are many possible reasons for the choices that we have witnessed in this election. As time has passed, I have learned that it is often a matter of priorities and differences in interpretation. It isn’t as simple as saying “hate won” or “love won.” That sounds nice for the soundbites. But it horrifically oversimplifies it and inevitably results in at least one side feeling as if it isn’t being heard or understood.

Additionally, when we truly listen, we can find, when dealing with most, the points on which we agree and build connections from there that may lead to greater unity and understanding. Those connections may in turn lead to the construction of a stronger foundation on which to act in the future.

Act

Social media and the Internet Age makes talk cheap and easy. The reactions I’ve seen online far outweigh what I’ve seen in the physical world around me, and people in general are far more inclined to vent or rant or express themselves with hyperbole online than in person.

The subsequent release from such venting may make some of us feel as if we have been productive, but it’s not really as effective as actual action.

It is important that we are aware of what actual steps are being taken against our freedoms and against our people, and then we ourselves must act. The power of the people is enormous, and most do not realize this.

If there is something that you see or know is unjust, do what you can to fix it and bring awareness to it in the most constructive way possible.

Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges

I am saddened at the enormous rift that is apparent within this country. If reports on social media are not just hyperbole, then a lot of families are not speaking to one another. Communities are ripped apart. Declarations of rage, unforgiveness, and grief surge through the social media channels like ripped open veins. Friendships have been sundered. People demand that all those who did not act in alignment with their convictions leave them alone. It isn’t a pretty sight. Hopefully these wounds will mend sooner rather than later.

I admit I have been surprised at some of the things I’ve witnessed myself. There are some things, some statements, that I wonder if I will be able to move past.

I want to. I need to. I believe I will. But it will likely be hard.

This has been a heated election. The most turbulent and bizarre I have ever seen (which in fairness hasn’t been that many). But we are still family and neighbors. The emotional repercussions of this will continue to be felt, but we do need to move toward healing and forgiveness. (Even if the people we disagree with don’t apologize or ever see what they did.)

Some of us are going to be in disagreement because of where we wanted the nation to go and some because of what we believe this election represents. But at the end, we cannot let the government or politics tear us apart. A people divided is a people more easily controlled and more easily distracted.

While the family we get to choose is quite dear and something to be treasured, the family we are born into and the immediate community that surrounds us is not something to be taken lightly. Disagreements and conflict may be unpleasant, but understanding and positive change may come through those interactions and lives may be changed. Living with those who agree with us may be comfortable, but it rarely creates positive change in a nation so large and diverse as this one.

Hold Assumptions Loosely

What this election means is still being shaken out. Was this a response to President Obama’s policies or a rejection of Hillary Clinton for her politics or her policies? Was this an embrace of Trump’s ideology or a mandate to shrink government? Was it X or was it Y?

We can make all kinds of assumptions. We can make assumptions about why this happened and about what it says about the people who voted in one way or another. But these assumptions are not necessarily correct, and relying on these assumptions may in fact make matters worse.

Don’t Demonize the Independents

The one thing that seems to be acceptable is that independents may still be attacked, blamed, and generally have inferred upon them that all the ills of this election are their fault. While I do respect that there are other opinions, I would point out that when we tell this segment of the population that they are to blame or that their votes are wasted, we are only alienating them further.

Belief in a two-party system is not essential to the effective running of our government. It is something of a fiction created by both parties to retain control and allow them to focus on a few “key” issues, essentially wedging voters into one camp or another even if they only agree on one or two points. Other nations have multi-party systems, and they function.

More importantly, an incredible aspect of our election process is that people are able to vote based on their convictions (even if we do not agree on the types of convictions or the priorities of those convictions). For some of us, the demand that we choose between one of the two main parties (the lesser of two evils, so to speak) is unacceptable. Most would agree that the system is corrupted and broken. For some of us, that means we work within the two-party system to hopefully uncover a solution, and for some of us that means we must work to challenge the two-party system by supporting third party options.

Look for the Helpers

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers) is “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

There are still people who will be working, ministering, and serving in all areas of life. We should look for them, encourage them, and…be them. Who sits in the White House does not eliminate these people, and we can always find ways to be one of the helpers.

This country is not going to turn into some dystopian nightmare overnight. The Purge is not coming. I don’t know what all the future will bring (and who can actually know), but this is not the end, and we can still do great good.

The Burden Is On Us (Regardless of Party or  Voting Choice)

Regardless of which side you are on in this election, even if you chose not to vote, the burden is on you to do your part to make this country better. (And make no mistake, it has always been this way.)

Some of us believe that we need less government involvement. If we get that, this means that there will be people who have depended on services and opportunities from the government who will suddenly be without these programs. Whether that is merited is another discussion. What matters is that there will be pain and withdrawal and loss if those programs are cut. And this means that if we are saying that the government is not needed to take care of these people, then we have to step up.

(Christians, this applies especially to us as Scripture is quite clear on our duty to care for the downtrodden, the homeless, the orphan, and the widow. And if we are going to say that this is for the church to assist in as many have, we must remember that we have to take action in this regard. We cannot sit on our haunches and wait for others to step up to the plate, and we cannot save our aid, compassion, and services only for those with whom we agree.)

Some of us believe that we need more government involvement. That may also happen, but with that runs the possibilities for abuse and the possibility that it may not be the sort of involvement desired. And if we don’t get it, then we still have to be prepared to wade in and provide the support that the government is not.

Additionally, we must all be on guard for abuses of power, violations of rights, and do what we can to prevent and stop those, regardless of who they are against.

Remain Aware and Active

This may be somewhat repetitive, but I cannot emphasize it enough. We must not grow complacent. Regardless of how we feel about this election, we can’t become docile or so discouraged that we abandon everything. Now, certainly, for some of us, there will need to be a rest period, but for the rest of us, for all of us who can, we must not weary of doing good or refrain from it.

This is the world in which we live. We all have differing roles to play, and we are all responsible for what we have been given.

At the end of the day who is president will impact most of our day-to-day decisions less than it might seem on this day and the upcoming ones. But we can make a tremendous impact by how we treat our friends, family, neighbors, and people within our communities.

I won’t let any candidate or leader or person steal my hope. And no matter who is in office, my responsibility remains.

I had intended to write about Hillary Clinton, the glass ceiling, etc., but this post has gone on long enough. I’ll tackle that one later.

Anyway, much love to you, my friends. Talk to you soon.

My Actual Writing Goals for November 2016

So I have already discussed that my goal during Nanowrimo is to post actual content rather than just writing it. And I won’t be counting my Wattpad chapters as contributing to this total. (It’s rather interesting that posting to Wattpad is not at all difficult for me. I get at least two chapters published there at a minimum each week.) 

But I am, of course, also working on various projects this month. And, as usual, I have one main one and several that I want to complete. (Some of these titles contain links to where the stories are posted.)

where-gryphons-mournWhere Gryphons Mourn — this is another dream story that I have been meaning to get out there for quite some time. So I am finally getting it done. In fact, my darling and wonderful friend, Stef, created a cover for me, so it looks like I will be writing it and posting it on Wattpad. Isn’t she massively talented? (Seriously, this woman is amazing! Check her out on her website, at Deviant Art, and Wattpad.)

Through the Paintings Dimly — this one is actually almost entirely done so I won’t be increasing my word count much through this, but there is probably about another 3 – 5k that needs to be added in addition to the overall editing. But it will be done and off by the end of the week.

The Insurgent Queen — another book in the Tue-Rah Chronicles, and so, of course, it will get a substantial portion of the word count. I write about 5 – 10k on the main series once a week. In a sense, this is my easiest and most difficult project, but it is the one I adore the most. My soul is always in this series no matter what else I am working on. I really hope that Amelia gets her voice back before the end of this month’s writing. It’s been a good long time, and the poor girl needs to start talking again. (Note: if you haven’t started this series and would like to, you should probably start with Identity Revealed.) 

In Darkness, Cower — now, once again, this story is mostly completed. In fact, it appeared in the Tenebris Somnia anthology on Wattpad. I plan to enter it into the TNT competition, but I want to expand it a little more to reach the 10k word limit. I had to trim it a bit to make it meet the anthology’s criteria. So that will be about 4k. It’s due by the end of the month.

thecelebrityThe Celebrity — this story is mostly completed, but I want to enter it into a competition on November 15 (can’t remember the name of the competition right now). It’s just about 8 k too short though and then it will be up to the required standards.

Untitled Story — I have been tossing around some titles for this story, but I haven’t settled on one. Cruel Frost, Frost Wolf, and Frost Strain are possibilities, but none of them really hit the horror genre nail on the head. The proper title will come eventually. This story is going to be approximately 8k. Another dream/nightmare story that I just want to have done. I may submit it to the TNT competition as well. It may also expand beyond the anticipated 8k.

Just a Kiss — a sweet romance for an anthology. It’s probably going to be about 5k, and it is due by the end of the month. I just have the ideas down for this one, and, in fairness, if another sweet romance story presents itself that fits in with the Christmas season, I will likely go with that. I’ll consider this goal satisfied so long as I have a sweet romance story down.

The Nameless One’s Plea —  This is another story for an anthology, and it’s great because this is part of the Ragnarok Undone novel or perhaps Ragnarok Untold, depending on where the end of the novel comes. It’ll be about 8 k. It’s going to contain some spoilers for the story but nothing too major, and hopefully it will help to draw additional readers to the Ragnarok series.

The Nightwalker Before Christmas —  a dark holiday/horror story that will hopefully stay short and sweet. (I’m really hoping that with this short story focus this month I will be able to do a much better job of keeping stories short and tight.) Hopefully about 3k. The title is a little off for me, but I’ll find a better one later.

Serpent’s Kiss — a fantasy adventure for another anthology that will be approximately 5k. It has to be done before the end of the month, but I have a fairly solid idea of where I want to take it. And if that idea doesn’t work, I’ve got another one that can work for the same title, which is good because I like having a good title.

Aquanos Feratu — a tight short story in the horror genre utilizing the breath vampire concept among other aquatic horrors. Probably about 10 k. If I have to prioritize and run out of time to finish projects, then this is going to be set aside until next month. (If I’m not careful with this one, it’s going to get a lot bigger a lot faster.)

Escaping Nowhere I started this novel last year for Nanowrimo, got to the required word count, and it was all quite great. But I didn’t finish it. I’d like to wrap it up, which will probably take about another 20 k. On the high end. It’s fairly easy to write though, and I have good notes to pull me the rest of the way along.

Parnimo’s Prize — oh yes, please, please, let me finally find the right ending for this novella. I have written the ending so many times, but it never quite seems right. I think I’m going to be done with this one within about five chapters at the most.

Now if I get to have my druthers this month, I would also add these. I’d love to also complete 5k SoulMates Pendanteach on The Red Dragon, Cursed, and Ragnarok Undone. 10k on Of Cruelty, Elves, and Sorcery would be fantastic along with completion of Of Course Not, Silas, I Know Best.

I’m also planning to send off my application for the SFWA, query letters for Lunar Realms, and send off a couple other short stories to some other professional markets.

These aren’t all my goals for the month, and I doubt that I’ll make them all. I make my goals difficult to reach and usually almost impossible, so don’t worry. We’ll just see how far I get on this.

In terms of my actual Nanowrimo writing, I’m doing all right. It has been a bit slow because I’ve had to do more editing and legal work than usual, so as of yesterday, I only wrote about 14k. I’m getting ready to settle in for a batch of fiction writing here after dinner. Hopefully that goes way.

My One Little Habit That Banishes Writer’s Block

Recently I attended a teleseminar put on by Jeff Goins, “Four Critical Keys to Making a Living as a Writer.” As per usual, there was lots of good advice woven throughout as well as some points I am still mulling over and determining how to apply. One point that has stuck with me most consistently though is the question, “what is obvious to me that may not be so obvious to others?”

Obviously the basic concept behind this question is that we are all knowledgeable in something that we can share with the world. Bill Nye said “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Sometimes the biggest challenge is to see what that is.

In light of this month’s challenge, I decided to look at the questions I am most often sent. Short of actual story questions, the one I hear most often is “how do you avoid writer’s block?” and “how can you write so fast?”

Now I haven’t had writer’s block as most people would define it (i.e. inability to write for days at a time, no desire to write, no ideas to write about, and so on) . I’ve had periods where the words didn’t come as easily or they weren’t good or when they felt soulless and wooden or when particular stories wouldn’t work. But ultimately there have always been words.

And maybe this is part of how I am wired. Or maybe it’s because of one of my rituals.

The tyranny of the blank page stops many writers from moving forward for a number of reasons. And while I am often able to push past it, I push past it because of one thing that I do. As soon as the words flee my mind, I write or type this:

I have a story to tell, and I am the only one who can tell it just like me. This is the story I must tell…

Then I move into writing the actual story. Just the sight of those words on the page encourages me. It does two things for me:

  1. It reminds me why I am doing what I am doing and the act of writing that drives that point deeper into my subconscious
  2. It keeps the page from being utterly blank, and you can transition into any story from that point.

You can make up whatever phrase you would like to write out or you can use mine. The point is that you just start getting the words out there. You can revise it later. For many writers, it seems easier to revise than it is to write that initial draft.

Hopefully that helps. How is Nanowrimo going for you if you’re participating, and, if not, how is life? (Those in Nanowrimo generally don’t get to have much of a life outside of writing. 😉 )

My Nanowrimo Declaration and Challenge Goals

This is the first day of Nanowrimo November 2016. I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo officially for about ten years (maybe one or two years unofficially in between). It’s one of my favorite times of year, and I love the energy that comes from so many writers striking out to reach their new writing goals.

And this year, I will be participating again. I am so excited.

Hitting 50,000 words in a month isn’t as much of a challenge for me as it used to be. So I have decided to focus on an aspect of writing that is quite difficult for me in addition to writing the 50,000 words. I’m going to have to post to my blog or on Youtube 30 times over the next month. It might not be every day because I am going to be doing some traveling around Thanksgiving, but 30 times should be a good challenge.

With that in mind, I may not just be posting new content. I have a bad habit of writing blog posts and then never posting them. So, while I will be writing lots of new content and stories this month, I will not necessarily be posting all of it here.

For the writing portion of this, I have a number of short stories that need to get done. Quite a few anthologies with submissions due either at the end of the month or the start of December, and if this December is like any of the others, I will need to make sure that those stories are done as fast as possible.

And, of course, I’ll be continuing to work on Tue-Rah. That just goes without saying until it’s done. I sometimes wonder what I’ll do when this series is fully done. Probably write more novellas. I suspect that it is a world I will never fully leave.

Anyway, what about you? Are you writing for Nanowrimo? Remember that it doesn’t have to be fiction. You can write poems, plays, scripts, stories, blog posts, even greeting cards. Your goal is just to reach 50,000 words to officially win, but you can set the goal for yourself to whatever you need it to be.

If you are participating in Nanowrimo, feel free to share the title of your book. And if you are sharing it on Wattpad or some place similar, feel free to share a link.

My Blood Donation Experience and How It Went Much Better Than the Last Times

The past couple times I’ve donated blood, it has gone…well, shall we say it has been interesting. The first time I lost time. The second, I passed out and was down for a whole weekend with deep bruising and a massive headache.

This time, I wanted it to be different. And it turned out to be good timing as I saw

Here’s what I did:

Drink Lots of Water

I always drink a great deal of water. Typically about 70 ounces a day. I’m almost always thirsty, and sometimes I have to stop myself from drinking too much (yes, folks, you can indeed drink too much and put yourself in very bad shape). But for the couple days leading up to the donation, I drank as much as I wanted and avoided everything with caffeine. That wound up being about 140+ ounces.

(Also, please don’t worry. I don’t have diabetes or pre-diabetes. I’ve been tested for that. I’m just constantly thirsty. It’s a side effect from something else.)

Eat Foods Rich with Iron

I also figured that it couldn’t hurt to boost my iron by eating iron rich foods. So I prepped and consumed great quantities of leafy greens, particularly spinach. I found that chicken breasts stuffed with cooked spinach are absolutely delicious as is spinach salad.

Let Them Know if You Have Had a Bad Experience

I went ahead and let the admissions nurse that the last two times I had passed out or lost time, and she told me that I should mention that to the nurses and technicians who would be working with me. When they put me in the chair, they then lowered my head more than usual.

Cough at Regular Intervals Throughout the Donation Process

The last time I became nauseated and passed out in what felt like a slow descent into ear ringing darkness. After the nurse coaxed me back awake, he had me cough several times to help redistribute the blood. He said that the next time I went, I should cough at regular intervals. This time I did that, and it seemed to work.

What I’ll Do Differently

The next time I do plan on making a couple minor changes.

As much as possible, I’m trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup as well as refined carbs. All of the snacks that were available at that time were along the lines of gold fish crackers, peanut butter crackers, and so on. So I’ll just bring my own snacks.

Also I had planned to just read on my phone with the Kindle app. Always before I’ve donated in the mobile units, and this was my first time in the actual clinic. Cell phones have to be turned off in there. So next time I’ll bring a physical book. They did say that an actual e-reader wouldn’t cause a problem.

As a side note to authors with good books, you might consider stopping by your nearby blood centers and seeing if they will accept book donations. There were a few people there who also had nothing to read, and some of the procedures can take awhile. They may not, but you can always check. And while you’re there, you can donate blood as well.

Anyway, it all went quite well. I was a little woozy and a little weary for most of the rest of the day and had some faint bruising. But not the pounding headache and not the exhaustion and nausea.

How about you? If you’ve donated blood, what have you found helps to ease the donation process?

Regardless I hope you had a wonderful day. Much blessings and love!

%d bloggers like this: