And another hot minute passes…

Wild Horses Statue, Providence, RI

Right, so where was I? Ciaragh was back, I was done with GARF, and life was settling down so I could get ready for my inlaws to come for a visit.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not even close.

For those that don’t know, my mom had some sort of major neurological event around the 3rd week of June, and she has not been able to recover completely. She is in hospice care now, and we really don’t know what the next step is there.

I’m updating right now from a hotel in Rhode Island because I am attending the RID conference. I had completely let this go to the wayside with everything going on at home. I happened to look at the webi

Nope, let’s start again.

This has been the weirdest summer of my entire 47.5 years of life. I sort of feel like I’m in the middle of that groovy statue I got to photograph in Providence – only the horses are real and in motion, and if I don’t watch out I’m going to get trampled.

Over the summer, I wasn’t watching out, and I was most certainly trampled. Ciaragh was back home, and I was settling into my regular summer routine of freelance interpreting, planning for upcoming faires, and writing as much as I could whenever I could. The final draft of the second Clobberpaws book was starting to sit up and pay attention. The first novel in the Forest Wars saga was being actively edited for the…I don’t know, umpteenth time, and was on track for publication at the end of July.

And then, my sister took my mother up to see my dad’s grave on what would have been his birthday. And then there was the night about four days later that I was talking to my mother on the phone and she was slurring her words and was very confused. I rang my sister who went over there, spent the night there, and then took Mom to Emory the next day to see the doctor.

From there, she was fast-tracked into the unit that treats stroke patients, only she hadn’t had a stroke. There was no evidence at all of a stroke. And then she had a seizure and slept for about five days – as one does when one is 86 and has a massive seizure. Her advance directive said no life-prolonging measures – no feeding tubes, etc. And then she was on the hospice unit for something like three weeks, so because nothing was happening, they discharged her to her home, where she died about two weeks-ish later.

Now, none of that is about me. It’s nothing to do with me. But the aftermath is everything to do with me, my sister, and our families. I spent a good day after Mom died wondering if I was an orphan now. Is that something that only applies to children? More time than was probably necessary was devoted to wondering what would happen to my sister and me – we had been texting all day almost every day since that fateful phone call because I am a state away from them. Now that the crisis time was over, would we fade back into our typical roles, only communicating now and then?

So here I am, a month and two days from waking up to a phone call from my sister that Mom had passed in her sleep, and I’m still wondering. Still waiting. Still an orphan – I decided I wanted to own that, so I did. Still struggling to find someone to talk to on long days at home or long car rides when I usually would call Mom. Still not quite able to listen to the stack of voice mails from her still on my phone – recordings that underscore what a neglectful daughter I am for not visiting her more often.

Here I am, with a book about to launch in a week’s time, a “First Page Critique” away to the folks running the writer’s conference in September that I will be attending (in the hopes that it will be chosen to be anonymously ripped to bits by a panel of literary agents), and a big signing event in the works for November.

Here I am, suddenly winning at being a writer for at least a few minutes, and the number one person I want to tell isn’t here. I hope she knows. I hope she is pleased. I hope she is proud.

On staves, poi, flow, and damaged elbows…

[The image here is the effect created by someone spinning fire poi. Poi, in this sense, is a Maori word meaning “ball on string,” and is combined with dance to make flow art. Before you grow concerned, none of my poi have ever been on fire, nor will they be anytime soon.]

Yesterday I attended a…skill share? Jam session? etc for people that are interested in flow arts/dancing with props. We worked with staves/staffs on various tricks that people knew. It was a great time – with the exception of my elbow.

To catch you up, I have tendonitis in my right elbow, most likely brought on by a semester of tactile interpreting in very odd classroom setups. While it is MUCH better than it was, I still have flare-ups of pain from my fingertips up to my elbow on that side – making my job SO MUCH FUN. I have an elbow brace that I wear and I take anti-inflammatory meds as needed. Easy. I was seeing improvement – until yesterday when I apparently forgot everything I know about taking it easy and carefully working my way back up to staff work.

Because the other likely culprit for my elbow issue is my age – the last time I spun a staff-like flag on a regular basis I was 17 years old. Apparently, your tendons become less stretchy after you pass the age of 40, which is seven years in my rearview at this point. Yesterday I didn’t stop until my shoulders and wrists and all in-between were making their presence known, and last night I think I slept about 2-3 hours all total due to waking up with a dull ache in my arm over and over.

Well, learned my lesson, didn’t I? Won’t be doing that again, right?

Poi class starts this week at 8:30 on Thursdays. Since I already have experience with poi I can take it more slowly than I did with the staff yesterday, and I am certain the weight of the staff was harder on my arm than the poi will be. And if it isn’t, I will sit out and watch for a while. But y’all, I am stooooopid excited about getting back to poi. It is meditative for me, and makes my heart happy.

Here’s hoping it will make my elbow happy as well.

And here y’all thought I was going to complain…

Not today.

Okay, earlier today, but not now, even though the sun is creeping up and into the window I’m sitting in front of and making it darned near impossible to work because I CAN’T SEE…

Nope, still not complaining. I am instead starting a new way of working – may or may not have asked permission or cleared it with the higherups but you know, sometimes, to quote Christine Kane, you have to “leap and the net will appear.” At least I hope there will be a net.

This is a time of change in my office. Great change. But only for me. After seven years of sitting at a certain desk in a certain office within our suite, I am being relocated. At first, I was angry. I have been here the longest! Why am I having to move? But now, I’m starting to look at this arrangement as a new way to work – semi-digital semi-nomad life, here I come.

So I was going to get myself all worked up over having to be out of my office today, but I’m not – I’m in my office now wherever I am. It’s a scary thing for someone that had needed the stability of a 9-5 job for most of my life, but it’s turning out to be more okay than I thought.

More time for writing when I’m not chained to a desk. More time to sit in a comfy chair and read my prep materials. More time to be me, rather than the poor team player that I always seem to end up being. More time, less office. Yeah. I think the net is appearing.

Hey, I just noticed the purple and orange in the photo up there. Huh. Coincidence?

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year’s Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time – set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn’t count.
I’m writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I’ve come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.
Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It’s called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact – I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so – I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above – a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.
I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That’s Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth’s podcast, it is.
I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I’m having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than ‘liz, as I have known her since uni, so there’s no way I’ve got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.
And y’all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share – and what she doesn’t.
Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today – the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse – and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, “You want to do that? Well, why not?” that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job – so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.
Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.
But this morning’s listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I’m doing and how to do it…if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig…even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don’t love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.
The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy – cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.
Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.
So while I’m still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won’t be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me – a work in forever ongoing progress.

Yes, Virginia Woolf, I am an author…

So, I was working on some prep for an upcoming class I have to interpret and I stumbled upon a passage in an essay that not only struck me but absolutely blindsided me in its perfection and appropriateness. In fact, this is going to be my go to now when people ask me what it means to be an author or, in her lovely parlance, a novelist – which sounds far more like the image I have of myself – sequestered in a lovely, seaside town with a leather chair, a fireplace, and my laptop, writing and writing and writing.

Of course, this image flies in the face of my reality – I’m usually on the sofa, holding off anywhere from one to three dogs who DESPERATELY  NEED MY ATTENTION RIGHT NOW and answering questions from my husband while trying to find the right way to describe a creature that heretofore exists only in my mind. That, of course, is luxury; there are also the harried moments of trying to get a sentence typed while simultaneously trying NOT to slide off the seat in a moving bus, or typing out THE BEST DIALOGUE I HAVE EVER CREATED with one hand at whatever desk I can find at work – as the other hand tries not to drop my lunch onto the keyboard.

Anyway, enjoy this passage from “How One Should Read a Book,” by Virginia Woolf. She is, as per usual, spot on. I will have some thoughts to share after you’re done.

The thirty-­‐two chapters of a novel—if we consider how to read a novel first—are an attempt to make something as formed and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks; reading is a longer and more complicated process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words. Recall, then, some event that has left a distinct impression on you—how at the corner of the street, perhaps, you passed two people talking. A tree shook; an electric light danced; the tone of the talk was comic, but also tragic; a whole vision, an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment.

-Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read A Book

Right, so anyone that has written anything will tell you that this is one of the more challenging aspects of the craft – take what you have experienced that inspires you and turn it into words, with all their “dangers and difficulties.”  While I do agree that it is difficult, it occurs to me that I have an advantage that I hadn’t thought about until today – I am fluent in English, but also in American Sign Language (ASL).

I know, it’s a stretch, but stay with me.

ASL, like all other signed languages, is a visual and spatial language – English, and other spoken languages, are more linear in their approach to conveying a message. It is part of the language to describe things, to make the building that Woolf mentions in that passage. You can’t convey the meaning, TREE without conveying what the tree looks like. It is built into the language!

I haven’t gotten to the advantage yet, so if you’re still lost, that’s okay. Here we go.

In order to express TREE in ASL, I have to visualize the tree. Whereas in English I might say “the old oak tree with the outstretched branches” to describe the tree I’m picturing now, I would use one sign in ASL:

As you can see in this image by The Tree House, my arm would be the trunk and my fingers the leaves, so in a way, I’m expressing everything that took me eight words in English with one sign. But in my mind, I am visualizing the tree and hanging onto that visualization because I need it to correctly represent the tree.
That was the advantage – did you miss it? ASL requires me to hold onto images of things that I have seen and subsequently want to talk about later. That is such a useful skill for a writer, especially one like me born without an eidetic memory. Do I capture and store everything that I see/hear/experience? No, my internal hard drive that is my brain is far too limited for that. But part of what I do as an ASL user is to slow down for a second and consider the visual aspects of something that strikes me – and that helps me later describe it, sometimes first in ASL and then in English.
My life is weird – and wonderful, and I hope that this will make me a better interpreter AND novelist.