The Storm

Greetings, Friends!

I hope you’re all doing well! According to my most recent blood tests a couple of weeks ago, I’m still in an active flare that has been going on since “at least September” according to my rheumatologist. She’s had me on a couple of rounds of major steroids on top of the daily steroids I already take, and they seem to be helping somewhat. At least my sed rate number is getting lower and closer to “normal” (which means less inflammation).

Since May is Lupus Awareness Month, I wanted to share a quick bit of info as well as a poem I wrote which will explain what I’ve been up to behind the scenes (besides completely overhauling my blog — Please feel free to take a look around and tell me what you think of all the changes and new stuff.)…

Lupus Awareness Wolf

Lupus is Latin for wolf. In the 18th century when lupus was just starting to be recognized as a disease, it was thought that it was caused by the bite of a wolf because of the distinctive rash characteristic of lupus. (Once full-blown, the butterfly-shaped rash heals from the inside out, leaving a bite-like mark.)

“THE STORM”
By: Rachel Carrera

Streaks of light stagger across ebony space,
Jagged lightning followed by the crash of thunder,
The roaring, rolling, rumbling sounds race;
In their wake, remnants of life split asunder.

The storm that rages often spins out of control,
It’s a fiery, ferocious, fierce beast,
A tsunami that crashes and crushes the shore
And demands to be free and unleashed.

All signs of life seem to be gone from within
As the cyclone swirls showing no mercy,
Causing an emotional collapse and tailspin,
The result of internal controversy.

This storm that I speak of is not in the sky
But within the confines of my person;
The disease that ravages me can’t justify
Why it causes my symptoms to worsen.

Whoever said once that life is unfair
Really did quite a disservice
To all who suffer this hellish nightmare;
I can’t think of one soul who deserves this.

Just getting through a day is so stressful
And feels like I’ve been fighting a war,
And looking in the mirror has now become dreadful;
I don’t recognize my own face anymore!

The pain with each step shoots fire through my limbs
As I place one foot in front of the other;
And the throbbing that causes my head to spin
Leaves little hope that I’ll ever recover.

But the pain is nothing compared to the dread
Of the horror that could be in my future,
Of organ failure causing my life to ebb,
And disfigurement from my abuser.

I throw up each day, though I never lose weight,
And my hair falls out by the handful;
I just want this storm to not be my cruel fate
And not extinguish my hope’s flickering candle.

This beast steals my sleep so I can’t even rest
While this battle continues inside;
My immune system is now in a state of protest,
Like an avalanche causing a landslide.

Even the slightest cold now kicks my tail
As germs stay with me like a cloud cover;
A sniffle, a cough causes a vicious gale
And I take weeks, sometimes months to recover.

I haven’t even mentioned the rash that I get
From where my disease gets its name;
It resembles a wolf’s bite, not letting me forget
To add something else to my shame.

But the thing that propels me through each passing day
Is knowing so many more have it worse,
And the lost prospect of their illnesses going away
Makes them feel like victims of a curse.

Their neuroblastoma, their Alzheimer’s, and
Their Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,
Their aortic aneurysms, swollen lymph glands,
Their Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis,

Their cancers, their famine, their anguish and sorrow
Make my lupus feel suddenly diminished;
If they can dare dream of waking up tomorrow,
Then maybe my life’s not yet finished.

So I hold tight to my flickering hope’s candle in the wind
As I seek out a ray of bright sunshine;
And far in the distance and around the bend,
I can almost make out a dark coastline,

Where the waves come crashing as they roll on the beach
As they beat on the shore with their fury;
Suddenly, the horizon feels almost within reach,
So I force my broken body to hurry.

When I get to the dark shore, the sun starts to rise,
And the waves relax some of their mad thunder;
The faint glint of sunlight that now shines in my eyes
Gives me hope that I won’t be pulled under.

A slight brightness follows the gloomy eclipse
As the downpour now wanes to a drizzle;
No longer does life seem like an Apocalypse;
It renews hope that my symptoms might fizzle.

Despite my sore muscles and pain in my bones,
My frequent fevers and inflammation,
And the many medicines that mess up my hormones
Yet promise to be my salvation,

I am told by my doctor when this flare goes away
That I’ll soon have more good days than dreadful;
And blue skies will at that time replace all the grey,
And I can finally slay this cruel devil.

So I’ll take cover now as I wait out this monsoon,
Keep my vigil even if I collapse,
Keep my eye on the sunlight instead of the moon
And have faith that the squall will elapse.

*~*~*~*~*

So let’s talk: Did you know where lupus got its name? Did you notice I’ve been working behind the scenes to revamp my blog? What have you been doing?

#LupusAwareness

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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?

I Like Mike

From Antananarivo, Madagascar
To Stockholm, Sweden,
There’s no rhymester better
Than the poet Mike Steeden.

His lovely wife Shirley
Is his best friend and muse;
She’s also on his book’s cover –
Now that’s exciting news!

The humor in his book
Will truly make you convulse;
So go pick up a copy of
Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse!

Not only is it amusing, but
Its brilliance will make you think;
To purchase it, just click below
On the Internet hyperlink.

I got to help Mike with his cover
And formatting for publication;
It was so much fun, I wish I could
Make that my life’s vocation.

It’s a good gift for the holidays,
And looks great in giftwrap;
And I promise you it’s far better
Than this, my own rhyming crap.

(As promised, here’s that internet hyperlink: http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-Prefer-Pulse-Poetry-Lunacy/dp/1517436478/ref=la_B015WAUW8C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1446143038&sr=1-1)

Okay, so as the poem said, I was honored to recently assist my buddy and yours, Mike Steeden, in getting his first book of poetry, Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse, published.  It comes in both Kindle and paperback versions, and features over one hundred magnificent poems by his highness, Sir Mike.  As you can imagine, the poems are not unlike those on his blog… filed with brilliance, lunacy, humor, wit, and WOW!

Of course, Mike did all the really hard work by writing it, but I contributed a teeny-tiny bit by designing the cover and formatting the paperback version.  We searched high and low for a photo that I could manipulate for the cover art, but when we selected the perfect photo, we couldn’t authenticate its owner to request permission to use it.  (A few sources said it was a French postcard circa 1920, but we couldn’t be sure.)  So finally, Mike was able to dig up a photo of his lovely wife, Shirley, taken on the Cob at Lyme Regis (the same spot they used in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman).

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

When I saw this, I fell in love with the scene, and just knew it would be perfect.  So I did a little Photoshop magic, and voila!

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

So to conclude, GO BUY THE BOOK!  (You won’t regret it.)

Thanks to Shirley!

You all know how much I adore my our blogging brother, Mike Steeden, and his hilarious skits, not to mention his remarkable poetry.

Well, what you may not know is that his lovely wife, Shirley, is equally as amazing!  Shirley doesn’t blog with us, but I interact with her on Facebook regularly.  She’s got a terrific sense of humor (which she’d have to have to be married to Mike), and I really wish we could get her to join us out here in Bloggyville.  But I digress.

Anyway, last month, she posted this wonderful little gem on her Facebook wall, and I just knew I had to share it here with you.  Thank you, Shirley!

Let’s talk:  How many of these odd words did you ever think of prior to reading this poem?  Can you think of any more? 

Second Verse, Same as the First

The following is a repeat of a post I made shortly after I started blogging.  I thought that since I’ve been getting comments regarding the intensity of my microfiction these past few months, this would be fitting .  Remember, I write Psychological Thrillers.  By the very definition, a psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It’s Throwback Thursday again, and this week I want to talk about intense writing. Sometimes people think my writing is a little too powerful.  But in my stories, I draw a lot from my own personal experiences, which I admit have not all been upbeat and cheery. As such, too often, I may be numb to what others find disturbing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t all have the luxury of a Disney-version whitewashed life.  We all cried when Walt Disney showed us Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, but have you ever read an unabridged edition of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale?  Those were a couple of sick and twisted individuals (not to mention the audience that bought their stories to read to their children)!

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Little Gingerbread Man.  The story was first published in the May, 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine by an unknown author who claimed that a servant girl had told it to his or her children, and he or she felt it was worth preserving.  Apparently the servant girl claimed that an old lady told it to her in her own childhood.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, quite basically, it goes like this:  An old couple is hungry, and they have few ingredients on hand.  The wife uses the paltry amount of food in her kitchen and bakes a single gingerbread man for the two of them to share, but upon opening the oven, the gingerbread man jumps out and runs away.  He encounters several barnyard animals who all want to eat him, and as a pursuit ensues, the old couple and the animals chase the gingerbread man, but they aren’t as fast as he.  He inevitably tells them all, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, having outrun all the hungry followers, he encounters a river, but he unfortunately can’t swim.  (That’s right.  Gingerbread cookies can, in fact, outrun even the fastest gazelles, but by golly, they don’t float!)  So a seemingly kind-natured fox offered to swim across the river, carrying the gingerbread man on his back.  The gingerbread man figured he’d be safe on the fox’s tail, but as the water got deeper, the fox persuaded him to climb higher, first to his back, then his head, then his nose, and of course you can guess the rest.  As the gingerbread man climbed onto the fox’s nose, the sly fox flipped him into the air, then snapped his mouth shut and ate the poor little guy.

(Yep, that’s me and my grandparents above.)

People who know me, know that my grandparents raised me from the time I was born, so I consider them both my actual parents.  And because my birth mother was their last child, they were older than a lot of my friends’ grandparents when they got me.  Now, the cool thing about living with my grandparents (which I didn’t appreciate until I was grown and had kids of my own) was that I got exposed to older culture than my peers.  And I’ve learned to truly appreciate the old-fashioned way of doing things.

My grandparents had already raised their kids and didn’t expect to have to take care of another one in their golden years.  So they weren’t necessarily equipped to look after an active child.  But, that turned out to be a good thing in the end.  You see, while other young children were hearing ’Twas the Night Before Christmas every December, I could count on Grandma reading me Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And while other little kids were hearing Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime tale, Granddaddy was reading me Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If anyone ever questioned my grandma as to why she might find it appropriate to tell a young child such graphic stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to sing them a song that her mother used to sing to her and her siblings in the 1930s called “Babes in the Woods.”  This little ditty was apparently a true story of a couple of children whose parents died and left them in the care of their aunt and uncle.  But the uncle wanted their inheritance, so he told his wife that he sent them to live at a school in London, when in fact, he actually paid someone to take them into the woods and kill them!  It’s not unlike the original version of Hansel and Gretel where the children are actually eaten by the witch rather than them killing the witch and escaping as they do in the sanitized version.  And if The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t enough to give you nightmares, just take a look at the lyrics to Grandma’s song:

Oh, don’t you remember, a long time ago / Those two little babies, their names I don’t know / They were stolen away one bright, summer’s day / And left in a wood, so I’ve heard folks say

Chorus: Sweet babes in the wood / Sweet babes in the wood / Oh, don’t you remember / Those babes in the wood

Now the day being gone and the night coming on / Those two little babies sat under a stone / They sobbed and they sighed, they bitterly cried / Those two little babies they laid down and died Chorus

Now the robins so red, how swiftly they sped / They put out their wide wings and over them spread / And all the day long on the branches among / They sweetly did whistle and this was their song / Chorus

So, in conclusion, I don’t think I was depraved because I heard all these stories as a kid.  I actually think it enhanced my creativity.  Am I going to tone back my writing because someone might think it’s too intense?  Nevermore!

The Jolly Old Elf

This time last year, I’d been blogging for just over a month, and I didn’t have nearly the number of followers that I have now, thank you very much.  So if you saw this last year, please forgive me for repeating myself.  But as far as my old stories from years gone by, I’m just about out of new ones to share.

This one is especially funny because it’s so stupid. I wrote this when I was in the first grade, so I would have been six at the time. I remember I was preoccupied with learning to write in cursive, even though we had not yet learned it in school. Hence, you can see that I managed to at least sign my name in cursive. (How funny that I was so obsessed, and now they don’t even teach cursive in school anymore.)

The thing that’s especially humorous (and embarrassing) to me about this poem is that I swear my first grade teacher told us a story (or read us a book) about “Carl’s Leprechaun.” It must have made a big impact on me to go home and write about it. Yet, when I found this recently, I Googled it and can find no such story!

The other comical element, besides my bad spelling, is that I had to write in the margin that it was indeed a poem. Obviously my reasoning was so that no one could confuse it for a novel or other fictitious prose narrative.

In case you can’t decipher my masterpiece, it reads as follows:

The Jolly Old Elf
There was an elf.
Hee hee hee.
I can’t believe what I see.
I said, “Hi there.”
He said, “Zee zee zee.”
Now it’s the end because
He was Carl’s Leprechaun.

(By the way, no one was able to answer my plea for help last year, so I’ll ask again… If YOU know who or what Carl’s Leprechaun is, would you please tell me?)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Friends!

Let’s chat:  Have you ever heard of Carl or his leprechaun?  Have you ever pinched someone because they didn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?  What is your favorite book or even movie about a leprechaun?  Are YOU wearing green today?