The Raven

While I was dealing with all the health issues I had this year, I was so exhausted at times that it was all I could do to make it to work.  Even reading was too much for me to handle.  Needless to say, I haven’t been as productive as I’d have liked, at least until the past couple of weeks.  However, to try to keep my writing mojo going, and at least stay in the mindset of writing, editing, reading, creating, etc., I redecorated my writing desk area with a writerly theme in mind.  (Actually, I overhauled my entire living room / dining room with the writerly theme, but I’ll save the rest to show you another time.)

desk

As I’ve shared before, my décor is a late 1950s / early 1960s motif, so I tried to keep that going while adding literary touches.  You’ll note the books on the top shelf include an old school dictionary, thesaurus, and volume library.  (Of course, they also include the “Chicago Manual of Style,” Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Chuck Sambuchino’s “Guide to Literary Agents.” Though those aren’t vintage, they are good to have around.)

books

My mouse pad as well as my little statuette features The Raven from my favorite guy, Edgar Allan Poe.

nevermore

IMG_0433

My printer is just the best investment ever!  I’ve definitely made use of printing my manuscripts in a different font than I type in then editing the hard copy.  It makes a huge difference seeing your work on paper as opposed to digitally.   This model is reasonably priced on Amazon (more reasonable than I’d have ever imagined), and the laser cartridges are under $30 which is less than I used to pay for ink in my old inkjet!  Better yet, a single cartridge prints around ten reams of paper with no quality problems whatsoever.

laser printer

I found these cool plastic envelopes at The Container Store to hold the manuscripts I print while I’m editing them.  (They’re great for carrying them back and forth to work to peruse during my lunch hour.)

editing envelopes

And finally, my awesome sister Michelle got me a subscription to Writer’s Digest as well as Poets & Writers.  Both are very cool (though I favor WD by far), and they both have lots of useful information that make them worth keeping after I read them.  (Those actually go in another one of those cool plastic envelopes once I’m done with them.)

Writers Digest, Poets & Writers

Anyway, thanks for visiting me at my house today.  As I’m starting to get my energy back, I hope my creativity will start flowing again and I can think of more interesting things to blog about.

So tell me, what do you have in your writing nook, and what keeps you inspired?

What’s Happening…

Hello, Friends,

I apologize for my long absence.  To say I’ve had a lot going on in my life would be an understatement.  I’m still dealing with health issues and stuff at work, but most importantly, I lost my grandmother last month.  As you know, my grandparents raised me, so Grandma was really my mom.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 029She would have been 97 next month.   She died the morning of June 29th, and her memorial service was July 7th.  She outlived (by years) every one of her nine siblings, as well as her husband and one of her children.  (The rate my health has been this year, I was sure she’d outlive me as well.)  She was sweet, smiley, silly, stubborn, smart, sometimes slow, secretive, and most of all, strong.  That was the theme of her eulogy that I gave.  (I think the alliteration got a few extra chuckles .)  I wanted a service that celebrated her life rather than focused on mourning her passing, and I think we achieved that.  I think she would have been happy with everything.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 003-She pulled her feeding tube out again.  I got the call while I was in the midst of preparing for a huge golf tournament for work that I’d been organizing since January.  It was the night before the tournament, and the nursing home called and asked if they should send her to the hospital to have it put back in.

She hadn’t had any quality of life for quite a while.  The Alzheimer’s was so severe, she hadn’t spoken in over a year.  The last few times I went to see her, I could tell she thought she should know me, but she just couldn’t connect the dots.  Her blue eyes which smiled her whole life didn’t sparkle anymore, and you could tell the life was gone from her spirit.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 008It never occurred to me in past times that she’d pulled out the tube that perhaps she was doing it on purpose – as if she was telling me she was ready to leave this life.  But it came to me this time, and I knew it was time to let her go.

Some people assumed because in the past when they asked how I would handle her passing, I said it was like she was already gone, that this meant I wouldn’t grieve or mourn her death.  There couldn’t be anything farther from the truth.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.  It rips away the memories of a lifetime and leaves but a shell of a person.  It eventually takes away the ability to eat, to swallow, and even to breathe. Anyone who’s experienced this with a loved one knows you have to put emotional distance between yourself and the person with this diagnosis because you’re both victims.  The loved ones that are left are as affected as the person with the diagnosis.  How must it feel to love someone so deeply for your entire life and know they don’t even recognize you?

I asked the nursing home to keep her on morphine and move her to hospice so she didn’t have to die in that nasty place.  But the only hospice that took her insurance was over an hour away, so she stayed there.  I knew it would take about a week and it would be an agonizing procedure – – You’re literally starving and dehydrating the person to death.   The organs dry up and stick together until everything slows down and then stops.

I couldn’t get out to see her until the day after the tournament, so 36 hours after the call, and I saw her several times a day, every day after that. She had eye movement for everyone else that went to see her – my kids, my birth mom, my uncle – but never for me.  I felt she was actually giving me the stink eye a few times.  It’s like she knew I was the deciding factor that allowed them to let her go.  She was afraid of death her whole life, and she knew I knew it.  And I sent her there to see Old Man Death, scared and alone.  I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life.  Such is the price of being “the strong one.”

Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself.  I hope you’re all doing well, and I especially thank those of you who sent me such sweet messages.  I hope to be back more often that I’ve been this year thus far.

Keep smiling, and stay healthy!  (Yes, all photos are of Grandma and me.)

-R.

It finally happened!

Enough talk about my failing health!  I want to share a cool story with you…  A couple of years ago, I shared a story about my close encounter of the presidential kind.

Since it’s an election year, I thought it only fitting to recap that story and give you the more recent follow up…

In 1980, I was ten years old and in the sixth grade.  That year, the presidential election was between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Candidate Ronald Reagan.  In my Civics class, we had to draw campaign posters for our favorite candidate and write a speech that they might have used in a campaign debate.

I had an instant affinity for Jimmy Carter from the first time I saw him.  I don’t exactly know why, but I loved that he had the warmest, friendliest smile and I liked that he was a former peanut farmer.  (The fact that he was born in a mental hospital also didn’t hurt my affinity for the psychological thriller genre of which I write.)  I think I also liked him because his daughter, Amy, was only a couple of years older than me, and I thought it was so cool that she got to live in the White House.

So, on the campaign trail, President Carter was scheduled to come to my town to speak.  My school was on the corner of two main roads that led to the Civic Center, and back then, the newspaper always published the President’s motorcade route.  Imagine my surprise when, only hours after my grandparents read me the newspaper over breakfast and told me the President was coming to town, all the students of my small private school were called out of class that Halloween morning, and we lined up by the fence to wait so we could wave at him.  I was ecstatic!

At the time, I was a short kid, so the two boys on either side of me told me I should climb up on the fence so I could see better.  As the motorcade rounded the corner, the limo window went down, and the driver slowed.  President Carter grinned and waved as he rode slowly past us, and when he saw me standing on the fence, he pointed at me.  I was thrilled!

When I got home after school, I begged my grandparents to change their votes to Carter, then I sat right down and wrote President Carter a letter and asked for his autograph.

Less than two weeks later, I received a reply from The White House which said that the President was very busy and couldn’t accommodate all the people that personally asked for autographs, but they still sent me an autograph card as well as a booklet about The White House.  It didn’t matter to me that the autograph wasn’t official.  The man just lost an election, yet his office still had time to reply to a little girl.  I was overjoyed!

Looking back thorough an adult’s eyes, I appreciate this pseudo-autograph more than ever.  I mean, between a hectic schedule campaigning for re-election, and dealing with the hostage crisis (among other things), the staff at The White House had to have been crazy busy at the time, yet they still managed to reply to a little kid’s letter, and in such a timely manner, too.

So, the follow-up to my story is this:  I caught a fleeting glance of President and Mrs. Carter (along with the Secret Service) at Epcot on New Year’s Even in 1998.  Between that close encounter and my admiration of their work for Habitat for Humanity, my love for this former President only grew.

Fast forward a few years.  I’d heard that President Carter taught Sunday School classes that were open to the public.  At the time, I had two autistic kids at home, and with no child support, finances were tight, so I put that dream on the back burner.  But having learned more about the work of The Carter Center and how it affects the entire globe, I was even more impressed with this incredible, awesome man.

A few years later, my kids were close to grown, and I mentioned the Sunday School class to a trusted source.  The friend told me that President Carter didn’t do that anymore.  I was crushed that I’d missed my chance.

A couple more years passed.   President Carter was diagnosed with cancer, and, again, I was heartbroken.  But only a short time after that, I was elated to hear that he’d gone into remission.  In fact, I went out of my way to read more than the one news report I would have normally read, and that’s when I found a link to his church’s website along with the information that he never, in fact, stopped teaching his Sunday School class!

That was last December.  I wanted to go immediately, but President Carter didn’t teach every Sunday.  I then planned to go the following month, but then my own surgery was scheduled for the beginning of February, so I had to push things off again.

Jimmy Carter 2016But in March, I finally got to go to Plains, Georgia, and sit four rows from the front while President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School!  This was the thrill of a lifetime!  You have to get there early (and by early, I mean while it’s still dark outside) to line up.  My sister and I got there around 4:30 AM. (I know I didn’t want to discuss my failing health, but this 6 hour drive and no-sleep weekend, while exciting, was literally a spur of the moment decision as to the timing, and was meant to make me feel better after all my post-surgical woes. Mentally, it did wonders, though physically, those two days set me back about two weeks.)

Once they open the doors, you’re searched by Secret Service then escorted to your seat.  (If you’ve never been around the Secret Service, that’s exciting in itself.)  You’re allowed to take photos all during the introduction period, then you have to turn your cameras off during the lesson.  If you sit through the church service following the Sunday School lesson, you can then get a photo taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  WOW!  {The photos are very rushed, and you have to be in a group shot with everyone who rode in your vehicle, but, still, it’s so generous of the Carters to donate their time like that.  (As such, my photo is not good [we’re all blurry], and I won’t be sharing it, but I will be returning soon to try again.)}

Rosalynn Carter & Jimmy Carter, 2016As if that’s not enough, there’s a museum just down the road from the church.  In the museum is a bookstore that sells nearly thirty of the books that were written by either Jimmy or Rosalynn Carter.  The most amazing part of this journey is that if you purchase any of their books there (which are no more expensive than if you purchased them on Amazon), they give you a form to mail, along with the book and a SASE, and between four to six weeks later, you get President Carter’s autograph!  Yes, really!  (Have I mentioned yet how much I love Jimmy Carter?)

So, that’s exactly what I did.  I purchased two books and mailed them as soon as I got home, and close to five weeks later, I received them back, autographed by President Carter!  Only thirty-five and a half years after I first requested Jimmy Carter’s autograph, I got two of them!  SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  (For those who don’t know {as my sister didn’t}, squeeeeee is about ten times better than Woo Hoo, and about a hundred times better than YAY!)Jimmy Carter's books

Jimmy Carter's autograph

Let’s talk:  Have you ever seen a President or other world leader up close and live?  What’s the best autograph you’ve ever gotten?

Half a Century

Earlier this week, my work friend turned fifty.  So I baked her a tombstone cake, got everyone to wear black, decorated in black balloons and steamers, bought her a big bag of “senior supplies,” brought a wheelchair to work for her to sit in, and put “slow senior old zone” yellow tape around her desk.  (It’s okay… she wasn’t upset because she knows I’m right on her heels.)  And I wrote a eulogy which was read by our boss, the undertaker.  I hope you’ll get as big a laugh out of it as we did…

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bid a fond farewell to Theresa’s Youth.  In the days of Theresa’s youth, men had not yet walked on the moon, smoke detectors were not yet invented, and Coca-cola did not yet use the newly introduced aluminum can.

In Theresa’s youth, handheld calculators were unheard of, word processing involved a manual typewriter, and the term “cut and paste” involved actual scissors and a brown, glass bottle of mucilage glue.

When Theresa was young, microwave popcorn was considered “space-age fiction,” the closest thing to video games involved three steel balls and a tilt sign, and heart transplants were only found in sci-fi movies.

In the year Theresa was born, the average cost of a new house was $13,600, the average annual salary was $6,450, gas was 31¢ a gallon, bread was 21¢ a loaf, and the average monthly rent was $118.

In the year Theresa was born, the Grateful Dead played their first concert in San Francisco, Astroturf was invented, and the mini skirt was introduced as the latest fashion conception.

So though Theresa knew a time that most of us have only heard about… a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, when cavemen dwelled, and when fire and the wheel were still relatively new, we now encourage her to embrace her advanced age.

Now that she’s stepped up to the fifth floor, Theresa can look forward to receiving Medicare, reading the AARP magazine, and getting the senior’s discount coffee at McDonalds.

Theresa, though you might look back on your life and feel that your travels were limited, just think:  You’ve already made 50 trips around the sun.  With the earth’s orbit being 584 million miles, that’s twenty-nine billion, two hundred million miles you’ve traveled since the day you were born.

Speaking of days since you were born, did you know that you’ve lived 18,262 days as of this morning?  That’s 438,288 hours, or 26,297,280 minutes you’ve been alive!

Theresa, there’s no two ways about it…. I SAY THERE’S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT.  You’re old.  I mean, really old.  But that doesn’t mean that your life is over.  In fact, now that you’ve reached your golden years, you can actually multi-task and get more done at once…

For example, you can clean your teeth and take a nap at the same time.  You can put spikes on your walker to pick up trash while you take a stroll.  And you don’t have to pause the movie to use the restroom anymore.

So, Theresa, while you are still able to reflect upon your youth… back to days when Methuselah was in middle school, when the Redwood Forrest was a field of saplings, and when the pyramids were still under construction, try to remember fondly how you longed for the day when you could be older… and know that day has arrived… many times over.

Despite your many, many years, know that we, your friends, support you… even if your Social Security doesn’t.  As you forge forward into the world of Alzheimer’s and incontinence, and pave the way to the nursing home, we’ll be behind you – pointing and laughing.

Goodbye, Theresa’s Youth.  You can stay back in the days when the Burger King was just a prince, when Colonel Sanders had black hair, and when Elvis was still alive.  And thin.  But we’ll take the new and improved Theresa.  The wiser Theresa.  The antique Theresa.

We love you, Theresa.  Have a happy birthday!

Time to talk:  Have you ever attended a “wake for someone’s youth” as their birthday party?  Do you have birthday parties at your job?  Would you be upset if someone gave you a party themed around exaggerating your age?

Stingray!

Well, friends, it’s time again for me to reveal another commercial I wrote, directed, and produced.  This is the third in a long series of ads for my boss and attorney friend, and I’m really excited about them.

If you’ve seen the others, you know that they start off with a little boy who portrays the attorney in the early 1960s when he was a child, then they transition into him as an adult.  The hitch with this commercial was that our little actor who plays him as a child can’t yet ride a two wheel bike, so we had to hire his cousin for a stunt double.

It’s been so much fun shopping for all the vintage toys and clothes for these commercials, but I think the purchase my boss has loved best was when he bought the Stingray bike we used in this one.

Some behind the scenes fun is that while the actor can ride a two-wheeler, the ramp was actually over two feet high, and was a little too steep.  So we belted him to the ramp and blew a lawn blower at him for some of the commercial, and for the rest, we actually had two large, musclebound men at the end of the ramp, and as the boy rode to the end, one man caught him while another man caught the bike.  It took nearly three hours of nothing but him riding to the end of the ramp before we got just the right footage to play for the fifteen seconds you see here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrymmhMIMUk

Once again, I added the link rather than embedding the video so that you can click on it and go to our YouTube page… and hopefully, you’ll “Like” the video on YouTube so that my boss will keep me around(Thank you very much!)

P.S. As before, my Proud Mama Moment is that my son Jeremy did the audio engineering for the music and the voiceover.

Time to talk:  What kind of bike did you have when you were a kid?  What was the riskiest bike trick you ever did?