Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Project For July: Wrangling A Story From My Bipolar'd Brain

It's been a long while since an idea for a novel caught and held my attention the way that the one I am currently about to undertake has; and it's a good feeling. 

I've been doing research, always walking that fine line between doing too much in advance (and losing my excitement for the project in the process) and being ready to begin on the morning of July 1st when CampNaNoWriMo officially starts.

I've made my playlist (or started it anyway) and I've even purchased a cover from the gifted Ida Jansson (who has done all the covers for my novels that you see on Wattpad, and then some...) 

I'm posting it here to spur myself on and to keep up my excitement level waiting to start writing on Saturday.

Here it is, the reveal of a novel I'm just writing for myself...

The tagline is: A love against all odds...and against the rules.

So there you have it, this is what I will be working on in the next little while. I can only hope my brain cooperates.

Wishing everyone good luck with their writing in July whether they are undertaking Camp or not...



Monday, May 29, 2017

A More Innocent Time

“To all our friends who couldn’t be here, we miss you.” 

~My Father, speaking to the camera as I recorded our Walt Disney World vacation in September, 2003 (during which we stayed at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, seen pictured above.)

We’ve started transferring family movies from video tape to DVDs, with the end plan of putting them on our computers for back up as well.

I was unprepared for the deep well of emotions that seeing some of these videos would draw on.

I was prepared for the anxiety and discomfort with which I would watch films of my ex-husband holding my daughter as an infant; a marriage I can barely fathom now lasting a day let alone seven years, as it did. I am glad it lasted long enough to produce that beautiful child, now a beautiful young woman, nearly 22 years old and married, herself.

I was prepared for the sadness of seeing my father healthy (even after a brain aneurysm almost took him from us in 2001, he made an amazing recovery from that. It was cancer and related complications of surgery for it that would lead to his decline and another stroke that would take him from us at the very end in late 2015.)

I was unprepared for the sound of his voice, his laughter, his choice of words, so much a part of who he was as a people-driven person; which he became much more so in the later years of his life.

I had written in the past about how I was never close with my father, despite my desperate attempts to get his attention from childhood, until after I gave him his first and only grandchild. A girl, and with dark hair and eyes no less (which he favored, like my mother and sister have) he always said she could have been “made to order.”

After that, he saw me as a person and not just as his third child anymore. He also saw my loyalty as my husband and I stood by his side through his health problems despite my own (he lived with us for two months at one point during his rehabilitation after the aneurysm; we grew even closer during that time) and he was an invaluable confidant and teacher when I was going through my divorce before that; we appreciated each other as humans and saw that we had more in common than we thought. 

We shared more than just a love of Disney and Star Wars and music. He also wrote poetry, I found out years later, and he was proud of my writing though he never got to read my novels, he got to read some of my other works and he enjoyed them, which was a gift.

At one point early in his cancer treatment before he was about to get his first trach, he said “I hate for you to have to see this, Sugar. It’s going to be ugly.” I squeezed his ankle, as every other part of him was hooked up to something or other and just stood silently. He said to the nurse who was preparing him for surgery, “This is my third one, the strongest, but with the most tender heart.”

I was dumbstruck.

Cancer took so much from my father, at the same time that my genetic connective tissue disease was stealing my eyesight. I was legally blind while he was going through a great deal of his procedures (including the ‘big’ surgery to remove the cancer which cost him the ability to speak and breathe normally; a complete laryngectomy. And he never smoked so they had no idea how he ended up with throat cancer to begin with.)

Until today, when that videotape went into the machine and began to play, it had been more than eight years since I heard my father’s voice.

How can you be prepared for something like that? To see someone you watched waste away before your own eyes on their deathbed in hospice so happy; dancing, whistling, laughing and full of life and love for the people he was with; us. 

Then I looked at myself in this video, which was taken fourteen years ago, and I felt the loss of all the physical changes that have happened to me since then, and I mourned myself for a moment, too. That was before blindness, six eye surgeries that were only able to restore some of my sight with disfiguring aphakia glasses; before teeth and facial bone lost to an infection changed the shape of my face forever; when I could wear makeup and eat what I wanted, anything, without worrying about dietary restrictions or the consequences of ignoring them.

I look at my daughter in those films, dancing, singing, happy and smiling… only seven years old and so innocent in many ways of the darkness there is in the world; would that I could have kept her in that bubble and protected her from the driving forces that ended up keeping us apart for almost five years until only recently; when she got in contact with me and said she wanted to be a part of my life again. Each time we talk a piece of my heart is mended, and it is turning into quite a beautiful mosaic piece now, fragmented and cemented back together and all the stronger for it now.

Innocent times.

How grateful I am that we had them. Sure, our family had suffered crushing pain and loss before that time but we also had more joy than I was able to process or appreciate at the time (likely due to my then as-yet-undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder.)

How beautiful it is to look back on those days, even with tears streaming down my face, and hear the sounds and see the sights and know that whatever imperfections our relationships had, that as time went on love was always the thing that mattered the most.

Love is all that matters, folks. I’m telling you. If you’re living in an age of innocence of your own right now, please do not take it for granted. Document it, save it any way you possibly can. Hold on to those days when the darker ones come, because those memories can see you through an awful lot and I am living proof.

I am still climbing my way out slowly from a very dark pit of depression that has lasted since last fall (or before, depending on who you ask…) but today I am grateful for memories, for the times that were, and hoping that somehow there will be more memories to be made, still, in my life despite all the challenges I face and the battles I fight.

I’m hoping for a return to innocence, and a lessening of the ferocity of the memories of times that came after it; because it is so much better to remember my father the way he truly was when he was himself than the way that he was at the very end of his days.

Fight for the innocence, hold on to it, for as long as you possibly can. In this world, we need love and good memories more than ever before because they sustain us in the fights we must undertake to carry on the business of living.

I’m wishing you all many happy memories, especially those still to come. Who can know what lies ahead of us? Today I choose to hope that there will be more good times in among the bad than I can imagine in this moment.

May it be so.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Winter Lost: At Last, Spring

My absence from this blog has been equal to my absence from life in general. 

This past winter something inside of me broke, and I just checked out. A shattering exhaustion, the kind that only deep depression can produce, consumed me... I just could not get out of bed.

Add to that the frustration of under treated chronic pain and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

No writing, no painting. Barely present on Twitter and mostly missing from Facebook; and when I’m there it’s usually only to like others’ posts not to post anything new of my own.

Even with several med tweaks and help from my doctors, it just wasn’t enough to shake it and the months of November through February were lost to me.

Then, March came.

There is in March, of course, the promise of spring; but we also had a trip that had been planned a long time in advance that I had to make, for my own good as well as to not let my husband down. 

Somehow (with great encouragement) I managed to drag myself out of bed and through the panic attacks and crying jags was able to push through the stress nightmare that is air travel for me and get to where we were going.

As soon as we landed, I saw the sun and the palm trees and I felt a subtle shift. I was still in incredible pain, still scared of what could possibly go wrong during our trip or at home where my mother was babysitting the cat.

But after a week in an upbeat, vibrant environment I was exhausted in an entirely different way but somehow there was a tiny spark in me; and I knew at home there was another new med waiting to try to help my pain. I was anxious to get home and get started on it.

My new sun hat

My optimism did not last long. 

On day five I had an intolerable reaction to the med and it had to be stopped; it is now in the ‘fail’ column. Meeting with my doctor yesterday we decided to go back to an older med that I used to take but stopped because we felt it might be making the depression worse (quitting it didn’t help the depression get any better, we found in the end) and so I started back on that one again last night. It’s my hope that I can find SOME relief from my pain, even just to take the edge off, so that I can be drawn again back to my blank canvases and the keyboard, too. So that I can be drawn back to life.

While we were gone they had one of the worst wind storms in Michigan history—and it was THE worst power outage event ever. Almost a million people without power and with damage to houses, trees, 1200 pound power poles snapped in half like twigs. We were lucky, we kept checking the phone and the answering machine picked up every time, meaning we were spared from the power loss.

We were also lucky in that we flew in and out on good weather days and missed the airport snarls that happened because of not only the wind storm itself but the blizzards on the east coast that followed our return. We were very fortunate.

It was a good trip. Though the depression dampened my enjoyment and the pain severely limited my ability to do much other than to ride a scooter around and take in the scenery, it was a good trip. We visited relatives one day, catching up and seeing how happy they are since they retired and moved down south. It was nice to see it.

So what now? How often will I feel up to blogging? Is the depression finally beginning to lift a little now that it’s officially spring? I don’t know. It is sunny today, but I can tell it’s still cold outside, and the pounding on my roof tells me that our building was not entirely spared from damage from the high winds a few weeks back. I’m just grateful that they are repairing the damage now before this weekend’s forecast rain.

Such is life with chronic illness, let alone mental illness. You don’t know when improvement will come, if it will come. All you can do is keep trying a little more each day, keep fighting sleep, keep battling to stay out of bed. Work with your doctors and therapist and hope for the best.

I’m hoping that I won’t lose spring the way I lost winter, and I hope that spring returns the sun and a renewed sense of hope to anyone out there who, like me, might desperately be needing it.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Rain

Rain poured from the sky like tears held back too long. -FG

It’s February.

Usually one of my favorite months of the year, because it’s the shortest part of winter and signals a mental turning-of-a-corner for me. But this year I’ve slept the first week of it away, due to Bipolar depression and what was left of that virus I had, whatever it was, at the end of endless January.

I’m ready for March, please and thank you.

It’s pouring rain outside right now, unusual for this time of year, and we’re approaching a record temperature in the low 50’s though it’s too wet to get out and enjoy it. There is no sun to make it feel like a preview of spring, instead it just feels like winter got depressed, too, and doesn’t have the energy to create snow. She just cries instead.

I wish I were in the throes of writing something that truly mattered to me; another book that held my interest long enough for me to invest in the characters, and for them to reveal themselves to me.

I was looking something up last night and realized that in May it’ll be two years since WISHING CROSS STATION was released. Two years since a real book release (I’m not counting the story I posted since then on Wattpad, that was just a lark) so why do I still feel so caught up in the world of publishing when I’m no longer a part of it?

Maybe it’s the wishing I was still a part of it, somewhere deep inside of me. It becomes an addiction, I think, releasing new books; taking them from concept to finished product and sharing them with the world. That’s what I miss. Though I have a perfectly decent story sitting here that I could work with and post eventually to Wattpad as well, I’m just not motivated to do it. It’s a simple love story, it’s not GODSPEED or WISHING CROSS STATION.

Maybe I’ll never get beyond the creation of those books. Maybe I’m not meant to.

Researching and writing Wishing Cross Station was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life as a writer to date. I truly wish more people would read it.

Or maybe I’m just in another depression related block. My brain feels like sludge; I can’t wade through it to find what may be good underneath.

I’m not even writing poetry as much as I’d like right now. I think my feelings are smarting from some comments read not long ago about rhyming poetry, and I wonder again why has everyone got to hate on it so much?

It was good enough for hundreds of years’ worth of classics; it’s good enough for Rap and Hip Hop and the lyrics of just about every song ever written. What are lyrics if not rhyming poetry set to music? Why is it acceptable to write that way in one form but not another? The snobbery (yes, I said it) of poets who refuse to accept rhyming poetry as ‘real’ or ‘serious’ poetry bothers me a lot.

To be honest, I don’t get a lot of non-rhyming poetry. Don't get me wrong, some of my poems don't rhyme. But most of the time non-rhyming poems just look like words thrown up on a page that make up sentences that could be part of a letter, or a meme or microfiction, or even someone’s journal. It feels more like prose than poetry to me, and sometimes it just seems like a jumble of words thrown together in an effort to sound clever. That loses my interest very quickly.

I know it’s a controversial topic (and far be it from me to need more controversy in my life right now) but it’s blocking me poetry-wise and that bothers me. It shouldn’t upset me so much what others think at this point in my life. I can only think again it’s the depression filter that is clogged and not straining out the unhelpful things that people say and letting the helpful through to my brain and heart.

I’m not sure.

My view: there is good rhyming poetry, and good non-rhyming poetry out there (and bad examples of each as well) and we as students of poetry need to be more accepting of each other's chosen forms to support each other's endeavors. My two cents, anyway.

Current events aren’t helping anyone’s creativity lately either, and my hat is off to anyone who can even blog or write to a Twitter prompt or do anything else that’s creative right now. Because the worldwide atmosphere is tense and that tension erodes my creativity. I am trying to find a balance between staying informed and overdosing on too much information.

So that’s where I am.

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago I set out to do a painting a day in February and ended up with more than 60 paintings in the month. I haven’t painted anything in February so far and maybe I need to force myself to change that this afternoon.

The sound of the rain, the glow of my lamp and a candle or two… it’s time to create something, because my other option is giving in again and going back to sleep, and I really, really want to wake up.

Happy Tuesday. xoxo