TOTAL BLOG EXCITEMENT!!!

OMGOMGOMG!!!!!

I just found out that one of my favorite websites, Offbeat Home & Life, is going to publish a blog post I wrote!!!!!!

I wrote the post a month or so after I got married back in 2012 and tucked it away.  A few days ago I found the post, thought it was awesome, and I polished it up and posted it here under the date when I originally wrote it.  It’s called “Stir Fridays, Wedding-Free Wednesdays, and Tasting Tuesdays.”  My favorite part about the post is that my husband and I still do Stir Fridays!!!  You guys, it’s been 3 years since we got married and we still do this habit we started in the year before that…  That’s amazing! That’s why I liked the post so much, because it made sense and was still working!  To be fair (and honest) we don’t do Stir Friday every week, but whenever we have stir fry, we call it that.  We still cook dinner together when we can and we still call a lot of our cooking experiences “Adventures in Cooking.”

We don’t generally go out to dinner on Tuesdays anymore either because our schedules have changed dramatically since I wrote the post.  We do keep a list of new restaurants to try and when neither of us has something specific in mind for dinner, we go to the list!  We moved about four months ago and although we’re only a few blocks from our old apartment we are technically in a new city.  We’ve been dutifully exploring new restaurants and delivery places.  We are still searching for a delicious pizza place but we found the most AMAZING sushi restaurant!

Wedding-Free Wednesdays has mostly faded from our routine… I think that using that rule/habit worked for us that we used until we didn’t need it anymore.  Perhaps our communication skills have gotten better and/or we just don’t have that kind of huge stressful event weighing down on us anymore.  While we don’t have a whole day set aside I think we are both good at communicating when we get overwhelmed and then we ease back off the topic or work to resolve the thing causing stress.

I’m so scared and excited!  Sending the post to Offbeat Home was a huge deal for me because:

1) I love that site and read it (seriously) every day,

2) I shared something I wrote with the intent to get it published, and

3) I linked the post to my blog.

I did a happy dance when I got the email and I ran around my house yelling about how excited I am!  Then, I made my husband dance with me and I read him the email (punctuated with lots of OMGs)… Now I figured I better post something with this year’s date on it so that if someone clicks the link to the blog they don’t think it’s a dead blog! Which leads me to…

A Little about the Blog

I have been posting on this blog for a couple of years now.  The way I usually post is to post things that I wrote in the past.  I like to do that because looking back I can add context to make the “old” stuff have more layers of meaning.  Like, the Stir Fridays thing… I posted it because it worked for us and is just a normal part of our lives now.  I love the before and after of the post. These days I try to post at least once a week.

I often consider posting about more recent events in my life but it’s complicated…  This is my “secret” blog.  I haven’t shared this blog with my family or friends because I wanted a place to share my writing without the anxiety of knowing everyone on my Facebook feed will be sent an update about it.  A lot of what I write about involves the people in my life and it’s not always comfortable to know that they’re going to read it.  (Since I stopped being friends with jerks I figure that if I told my friends I had a blog, they would probably read it.)   This blog started as a way for me to get more comfortable with sharing my writing.  (Seems like it’s working since I shared a post with a big website!)  Eventually I want to get comfortable enough that I will send my novel out into the world to try and find an editor and publisher.

There are a couple gaps when I stopped posting for a while… During one of these gaps I had a job where I didn’t feel comfortable having a “secret” blog because I was pretty sure it would get found, so I let it just hang out for a while.  After I changed jobs I picked the blog up again.  Then, last October I had some major medical issues to deal with (Downside, 3 major abdominal surgeries within 5 months. Brightside, not cancer! WOO!)   I’m actually still healing/recovering from these surgeries (nerve pain is a lingering, spiteful b**ch) but I’m getting better and that’s awesome! I’m working on a post about my advice on dealing with medical stuff when you have severe medical anxiety. I (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) have found a lot of success in dealing with medical-related things such as:

  • Scheduling appointments,
  • Actually going to medical appointments,
  • Having major surgeries,
  • Dealing with work after you’ve been injured and while you’re recovering,
  • Organizing medical bill and insurance statement mail,
  • Paying medical bills, and
  • Working with your partner throughout all that stuff above.

That post is one I also plan on sending to Offbeat Home because I looked for advice on this sort of stuff and it was hard to find.  I’m also going to be continuing to post about my Study Abroad trip to Italy. In addition, I’ll be posting my favorite photos from National Geographic’s photo of the day, funny things from Pinterest, and lots of book-related posts.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my stuff!  If you have requests for the type of posts you’d like to see more, please let me know if the comments below!

Ciao!

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After the Before

Author’s Note:  Let me preface this entire post with the knowledge that my mom is alive and well and cancer free.  (I hate it when awful stories get told only to find out after all the worrying for the characters that there is a happy ending after all.  I don’t mind those sorts of stories as long as I know they end happily, thus I’m sharing this ending.)  This blog post is a story I wrote my senior year of high school.  It is the only story I’ve ever written where I allowed myself to discuss my family’s battle with cancer. 

When I was about 2 my mom, 29 years old, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in one of her breasts and the lymph nodes under her arm.  The doctors told her to make peace with the world and that she would not live to see me graduate college, get married, or even start Kindergarten.  My mom is a fighter and she fought her way into the case studies for Tamoxifen (now a standard part of breast cancer treatment) and had chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, and a mastectomy.  She had check ups twice a year for the next five years.  After five years she was pronounced cured.  She continued annual check ups at the cancer center.  After ten years she was pronounced really cured and at some point along the way her cancer was downgraded to a stage 3 (because she survived).  She continued yearly checkups because she had been in the case study.  At year eleven she was pronounced still cured.  Between year eleven and year twelve she didn’t notice but a lump the size of a pea grew under her armpit in one of her lymph nodes. 

At her yearly check up 12 years after she had first battled cancer, the cancer returned.  She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.  Once again the doctors told her to make peace with the world and that she would still not see me graduate high school, go off to college, or any of the things we had finally allowed ourselves to look forward to sharing together.  They said this cancer was tricky because it had been dormant for 12 years and then become very aggressive to have grown a lump so large in so short a time.  Again, my mom fought with all her strength.  She did more chemo and had more surgeries but this time there was no radiation because she had had the largest amount a person can have.  My freshman year of high school was her diagnosis.  My sophomore year of high school was her surgery.  My junior year of high school was her chemo.  My senior year of high school was the waiting and I graduated a semester early and went to community college- just in case. 

The doctors were wrong: she saw me off to formal dances, my first date, graduation, college, moving into a dorm, studying abroad, and recently getting married.  She is one of the success stories and I love sharing the hope that her double cure inspires.  But I don’t like talking about it, or thinking about it.  I still practice magical thinking… if I don’t talk about cancer or think about it then it won’t come back again…. Regardless of what will happen, right now she is happily living her life cancer free and my dad always tells her how she’s more lucky than cats who get nine lives and even more lucky than frogs who croak every night.  We all do the best we can to live life to the fullest because we know how short and precious it is.  Enough commentary. The story:

 

After the Before

***

After

 

My skin is very white.  When I get cold, my skin gets even whiter, except for the scars.  The scars are vivid, dark, and obvious.  They show up, slashing across my hand and wrist and itching in the cold.  They were not always there.  Before she got sick again, my hands were clean.  Now, they’re stained with my anger.  When we got back to our house, the sickness hovering over each of us, I went into my room, in the closet, and punched my hand through the wall.  Four times.  The plaster exploded around me and chunks of it stuck to the hair on my arm.  I broke two fingers and dislocated another.  I’m still not sure what exactly cut me, but something did.  I had three jagged tears above my wrist and my hand looked like I had lost a fight with a garbage disposal, or put it through a wall a couple of times, which I had.  My parents had to take me to the hospital.  Back to a hospital for more waiting.  The last place any of us wanted to go.  It is always cold in the waiting rooms of hospitals.

 

 ***

Before

It is always cold in the waiting rooms of hospitals.  We are waiting.  The walls are waiting, the uncomfortable chairs are waiting; the puzzle is waiting.  It has been the same puzzle for years.  We are all waiting.  The recycled air drifts around the families and patients too slowly to create a breeze.  The shifting of pain stiffened bodies; turning of outdated magazine pages, and the constant wheeze and coughs of people breathing the stale air are the sounds that fill the space between the floor and ceiling.  I think it is a requirement of working here to have noisy shoes.  Most of the men have tennis shoes that squeak at either the left or right toe.  The women have high heels that meticulously click-click-click their way into your brain behind your eyes.  The clicking is driving me mad.

I tap my foot in impatience.  I restlessly flip through an old cooking magazine without seeing the pictures, let alone the words.  My butt hurts from sitting for too long.  I wish my mom would be out soon so I could move around a little.  She doesn’t usually take so long.  I look at my dad to see if he’s as uncomfortable as I am.  He’s calmly flipping through a Time magazine from September (it’s December now) and has a scientific looking National Geographic waiting on the seat next to him.  I sigh as a squeaky-shoed-college-aged guy dressed in green scrubs hurries past.  He glances at me, keeps walking.  I throw my magazine on the table and stand up.  I restlessly move to the low rounded table with the magazines and grab some that look less painful then some others.

I hear the clicking of the woman who escorts patients to see the doctors.  She walks up, reads a name incorrectly off a metallic stern looking clipboard, walks a few clicks away and says the name again in the same nasal voice.  Some ancient looking, pain ridden patient is helped to their feet by a concerned family member.  They follow the clicking woman down the white hallways past cheerful portraits of wildflowers as the woman makes an effort to create conversation.  Not everything about this place is hopeless; don’t get me wrong.  Laughter sparks from hushed conversations among different people.

As a little child, I used to wander among the people waiting, offering to share my toys and asking if the patient had hair.  I would proudly tell them about my mom, who’s real hair is waiting until she gets better to come back, who has a very pretty collection of hats and a fake head to hold her pretend hair while she’s not wearing it.  I would tell them about how if I was good, I would get to borrow some hats.  I would smile and tell them about the secret stash of hot chocolate I could get from the nurses and offer to get them some.  Sometimes, I would bring water to my parents, and read a magazine with my dad while my mom was seeing the doctor.

There is hope to be found, if you look for it.  I didn’t notice as much while I grew up, as I do now.  Now, it seems much more important, not only to me, but to my family and to the families of other patients as well.  Without hope, there would be only sickness, and that is no way to live.

Besides hope, there is also tired and old and the waiting.  That was mostly what I noticed then.  Everyone who’s here, except for the workers, seems old.  I, at 17, am old.  I have been old since I started coming here with my family at 6 years of age.  The waiting has that effect on people.  As the minutes march into hours and the hours multiply, I begin to get nervous.  No, not nervous.  Anxious.

Anxiety.  It feels like it blasts from nowhere.  It tackles you.  Slam!  You’re floored.  There is a four hundred pound sumo wrestler sitting on your chest.  He’s sweating on you.  You can’t breathe.  You can’t move.  You’re stuck.  Your vision clouds with a black smoke of panic.  Your heart tries to beat its way out of your ribs.  Your hands tingle.  You’ve lost control.  Slam!

If that analogy does not work for you, imagine this one.  Picture a wicked May pole- something that can stand straight up with the support of tautly pulled strings.  Now, replace the May pole with a knife, a very sharp, very pointed knife with a very shiny, very black handle.  Attached to the handle are strings of barbed wire.  The knife is slammed into your breastbone hilt deep.  The barbed wire is injected into various places across your chest.  Now, as you become more anxious, the knife is twisted and pushed deeper into your chest.  The barbed wire is pulling parts of your chest towards your heart, while the knife is brutally twisted, making a tight circle in the bone and muscle.  Your world narrows to this pain.  There is no literal knife, so you can’t bleed.  Instead you sweat.  It’s as if you just washed your hands, but didn’t dry them and instead of water and soap, it’s salty sweat.  Your brain focuses only on the pain; it can’t control your vision, which quickly fades to black.  Rapidly you lose control of your hands.  They become a tingling sensation too far away to control.  This is anxiety.  This is what I feel.

This is what I feel now.  Now is Friday afternoon at 4:00 on December 16th.  I am down in the city with my parents sitting in a section of the hospital.  The cancer ward.  I’m not sure that “ward” is the correct word, but it fits.  I watch my mother’s doctor stride by followed by a flurry of college students who wish they were her and had her job and are as good as she is.  It is almost funny to watch because they almost always tower over her.  She is tiny.

Everything about her is tiny; she is, after all, only five feet one inch tall.  She clicks her pen in time with her heels as she enters the room.  Her starched white doctor’s jacket hangs precisely to mid-thigh.  The long sleeves are rolled to create cuffs revealing a very expensive looking shiny gold watch on her left wrist.  The color nicely matches the gold of her wedding band as it reflects light off the diamond of her engagement ring.  Her pressed khaki pants have matching creases running up the sides of her legs.

Her hair is short; it balances upon the tops of her ears and carefully lay over the top of her forehead and plays with the collar of the jacket at the base of her neck.  Each piece seems to be hair sprayed in place to create the least possible disturbance to the patient while still managing to look styled.  Her thin steel framed glasses perch on the bridge of her tiny pointed nose.  Behind them, her eyes are tough and by looking into them you can tell she’s spent many years watching patients die.  Despite the hardness in them, there is also kindness.  She isn’t a touchy feely doctor who will hold hands in a circle with her patients and sing Kuhm By Ya.  She is a good doctor though.  The best.  That is one of the things I like about her.

Maybe I also like her because when I was a child I could look her in the eye.  She seemed to be on my level despite her constant shuffling through color coded pages on her clipboard to check and cross reference her ideas and comments, even though she was right.  She was always right.  Even with all her knowledge, she always had time for a child and that made her special.  I respect her more then any other doctor I’ve met, believe me, I’ve met a few.

 

 ***

Somewhere in Between

 

I knew something was wrong as my dad and I walked into the confines of the stark white walled room.  Even before Is aw my mom, I could tell she’d been crying.  The doctor’s face was grim.  I didn’t know what grim meant before I’d seen that face.  Grim.  The eyes were forcibly opened by sheer will, they were gleaming with unshed tears; the lips were pressed firmly together, perhaps to keep from speaking the truth and making it real.  The color was gone from her face and her hands were shaking.  I had never seen her like that.  She had always been cheerful and relaxed during the family information time of the checkups; then again, my mom had been healthy for the last twelve years.  I had seen at once that everything was wrong.  My anxiety tackled me again but this time I had to keep it in check because to be anxious was to admit something was wrong.  I had kept trying to tell myself everything was fine, even though I knew it wasn’t.  My whole world was collapsing.

Looking back I don’t remember the words.  The doctor drew an elaborate complicated drawing on the sanitary paper covering the examining table that we took home and explained to the relatives and friends while they tried not to sob.  I remember I knew everything was wrong.  The doctor’s eyes were crying, but she was not allowed to cry.  My dad became stoic and I could tell he was broken, but for my mom and me, and for himself, he had to remain strong.  I felt like my entire life had been in a shoebox and suddenly, for no reason I can understand, someone had taken the box, violently shaken it, and had tossed the contents out into a stream of whirling chaos.

The ceiling vaulted away from me, the walls leaned in to take its place.  Everything shrunk and expanded.  Reality was far away.  It was outside of us, outside the room, outside of the cancer ward, outside of the hospital.  Chaos remained.  Chaos with the name of cancer.

As we were leaving, the doctor walked us out.  My mom went to wait outside while my dad got the parking slip endorsed.  The doctor was talking with him.  As my dad started to leave I couldn’t move.  I had to hear it from her.  I had to understand.  I needed her to tell me it wasn’t real.

“So… so does this mean my mom’s cancer is back,” I asked.  I tried to look her in the eye but I couldn’t see through tears I refused to shed.

“Yes, I’m sorry.  It does.”

 

Freedom in Moving

Today I have begun posting entries from the journal I kept while I studied abroad in Orvieto, Ital in the summer of 2008.  I will post journal entries, pictures, and scanned documents of treasures I tucked away into the pages of the journal.  I hope remembering this journey page by page will inspire me to plan another trip and once again find the freedom in traveling to another country…

 

Freedom in Moving

 

“When” We Children, Not “If” We Will Have Children

I don’t like going to the doctor.  In fact, I’m pretty terrified of going to the doctor.  I hate needles and hospitals and doctor offices.  Since I hardly ever go to the doctor, when I do go it’s because I’m really sick.  Consequently, the doctor always tells me I’m really sick.  So then I don’t like going to the doctor because they always tell me I’m sick… I’m terrified that I am going to get cancer because my mom had cancer and I’ve just always thought that I would get it too. I do not have the most healthy way of looking at doctors or getting sick but it is something I have been working on improving.  My husband knew about my loathing of all things medical before we got married.  After we tied the knot we sat down and I really explained to him that I was terrified of getting cancer, rational or not it has been a fear that has governed every medical interaction I have had since I was 16 at least…  He pointed out that not all cancer is hereditary and that I have lived a very different lifestyle then my mom.  Also, no one else in my family has cancer so the situation might not have the odds I’ve always feared.  After that talk I realized that whether I end up getting cancer or not is actually not the main issue.  The main issue is whether I am going to take care of myself or not.  I want to be a strong, healthy partner just as I expect my husband to be a strong, healthy partner.  That means we both needed to reevaluate our feelings about doctors.

I started with the dentist.  I’ve had a cracked tooth (rear molar) for a couple of years and have never gone to the dentist to get it fixed.  I’ve literally just chewed on the other side of my mouth.  For years.  So I scheduled myself a dentist appointment and even showed up.  I found the dentist by doing lots of online research.  I found a place that specializes in “gentle dentistry” aka people with dental phobias or who have really sensitive teeth.  After finding that place I compared online reviews with lots of other places who specialized in the same thing.  I found the one that was ranked the highest and made an appointment.  It ended up being really great!  The dentist and dental assistants, even the lady at the front desk, all listened to me and explained things when I told them if I knew what was coming I wouldn’t jump.  It was a really positive experience.  That turned out to be good because I’ve seen a lot of them since then and I will continue to do so.  When you don’t go to the dentist for 5 years or so except for that one root canal you couldn’t avoid… your teeth will probably need some work.  My cracked tooth needed a root canal.  I knew that going in.  Turns out the tooth cracked because of the way my teeth connect and I also need another root canal on the same tooth on the other side of my mouth!  That one doesn’t look cracked but actually is down between the teeth.  Oh good… I finally decide to take care of business and now I need $4400 dollars in dental work.  My husband still says it was the right choice.  I’m not so sure.  Meanwhile, I’ve completed the one root canal on the cracked tooth.  It was my third and it was the best root canal I’ve experienced! When my husband gets a job I will schedule the other one.  Right now we just can’t afford it.

So I dealt with my teeth.  The next step is going to a regular physical check up.  I don’t feel quite up for that so I scheduled a lady doctor appointment.  I was only marginally less terrified of this doctor visit then of a normal physical.  I have only seen an OBGYN once and that was eight years ago.  I conducted research to find the best doctor covered by my insurance.  Then I needed to decide if I wanted a doctor that was just a GYN or one that was also an OB.  I decided on the OB because if we decide to have kids and I like the doctor then I don’t want to have to get a new one.  So, I went to that appointment today.  It was not nearly as awful as I was afraid.  I cried twice when I asked the Big Questions that have scared me for years:

1) Do I have the breast cancer gene?

2) Can I have children?

These questions have plagued me for years and I have been too scared of the answers to ever ask them.  The good news is that I can have children! The other good news is that it seems unlikely that I have the breast cancer gene because of our family history.  The bad news is that to really be sure I will need to ask my mom to get a genetic screening and then get a screening myself for comparison.  That doesn’t seem likely because of her own relationship with doctors.  The other questions I had the doctor answered as well.  In fact she took the time to go through each question on my list I brought and patiently answered everything.  In my experience doctors seem more apt to prescribe a pill, let the pharmacist go over it with you, and move on then they are to sit down and talk with you about what’s going on and what to expect.  Key take away from my visit:

Condoms are only 85% effective!

WTF?!?!?!?!  I told the doctor that I thought they were 99% effective and she smiled and asked if I liked the show Friends and learned that from Ross and Rachel’s experience.  (I DID! AND I NEVER KNEW THAT FRIENDS WAS WHERE I HAD GOTTEN MY CERTAINTY THAT CONDOMS WERE 99% EFFECTIVE!!!!) So, turns out we’re REALLY lucky that we haven’t had a pregnancy “scare” because, you know, we use condoms.  Speaking of babies…

My husband almost caused me to crash my car when we were driving back from our honeymoon last November because he said he could picture us having kids “next year.”  For the record, that “next year” is five months away!  With that comment he had moved from how we had been talking about kids: “someday, maybe if we have kids” to the concrete near future certainty about kids: “I can see us making a baby at this time next year.” That was a big startling revelation in our relationship and we have been having an ongoing conversation about kids since then.  It’s like suddenly with that one conversation he gave me Baby Fever!  I had never been partial to babies, not that interested, babies were still hypothetical in my future.  Suddenly I see babies and I’m like “AAAAAWWWWWWWWWW! LOOK AT THE WIDDLE TOES!” It’s been a struggle to keep my anxiety and fear at bay because they are so wrapped up in my thoughts about having kids.

Since I’ve always believed I would get cancer, I haven’t wanted to have any children because I don’t want to put them through what I had to go through and I don’t want to put my husband through what my dad had to go through.  Also I’m terrified about how the world is a dark and scary place and how can I bring an innocent child into that?  And what about if the child has a birth defect or a disability or grows up to become a serial killer?!?!?!  And what if I go crazy and then everyone has to deal with crazy me?  And what if something bad happens?  Or what if the baby gets cancer?

I’ve been carrying around all these worries and what ifs for years and I’ve never let myself really consider having a child because all these dark thought were between me and the thought of me having kids being possible.  My husband has dutifully talked through all these fears and more with me and even brought up some of his own… what if our parents try to move in with us to “help,” what if our puppy doesn’t like the baby, what if we lose our jobs and have a baby, what if we want to travel or move across the country?  So we talked about those things as well… and we’ve been talking about these things for the past 7 months.  Finally today I let all the fear and anxiety out at the doctor’s office and shared them with the doctor.  She explained what she could and then patted my hand and told me “you can’t live in the world of what if.  You can’t live in a world governed by fear.  You’ve had some bad things happen in your life.  Some really sad things you’ve had to deal with.  You could use some joy in your life.  Babies bring lots of joy.  It’s ok.  You are a healthy, young, responsible adult in a healthy relationship: go make babies.” And then we smiled at each other.  And I felt this dark creeping cloud that’s been hovering for years just raise up off me while I can still feel it hovering, waiting for me to descend into the dark pit of worries and what ifs, for the rest of today I’ve just been smiling.  I was waiting to make a decision about “the whole baby thing” until I had a sign from the universe.  I don’t know how much more clear the universe can be then having a doctor tell me to “walk thirty minutes a day, take a multivitamin, and make babies.”

I talked with my husband as soon as I got home and told him everything.  We both just smiled at each other and decided: it’s time to invite more joy into our lives and stop letting worries and fear make our decisions for us.  We’ve decided we are going to have a child and now it’s a matter of when, not if.

Positive Self Talk

Today I advised my cousin:

  • Give yourself permission to be who you are.
  • Tell yourself that you’re okay just the way you are.  Yes even the anger, flaws, worries, smoking habit, loves, interests, and all that stuff going on inside your head, and everything you share, and everything you don’t share with everyone else.  Yes, even whatever you just thought of.  All of it, it’s okay and so are you.
  • You are only one person.  You can only do what you can do, regardless of how much you want to do.
  • You are strong enough to hold how you feel.

 

He was quiet a while, processing what I said.  He told me that what currently helps him is to:

  • Ask yourself if this will matter in 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years.

 

I think we both might know more then we give ourselves credit for…

 

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On Being Poor

I just found this article called The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/ and found it quite interesting.  I expected it to be funny… instead I realized that I’m not as far from feeling poor as I pretend to be.

For those readers who have not experienced being poor the article might come across as sarcastic or stupid… for me it was eye opening.  I do every. single. one. of those 5 Stupid Habits!  It is not so much that we grew up poor… it’s that trying to learn how to be a self sufficient adult in the worst economy since the Great Depression is hard.  I frequently feel poor.  I finally found a job that makes enough money that I shouldn’t feel poor, but in the year that I’ve had this job my husband has quit a job, been laid off, and been let go… Now he is having a hard time finding another job that’s not in a call center, and he’s not going back to a call center because that’s what he tried last year and obviously it didn’t work! We have been getting by with a hairpin tight budget and the help of our credit cards, which are there for emergencies after all.

I was quite fortunate when I graduated college not to have any student loans.  I managed that by:

1) Having a scholarship with so many requirements that  it felt like a job but also paid incredibly well and gave me great opportunities.

2) Working one-two jobs the whole time I was in school until my last semester.

3) Going to a State University instead of the far off expensive University that I couldn’t even afford to apply to, let alone attend without a full ride scholarship like I had always dreamed of doing.

What I didn’t manage to do was find a job in CollegeTown after graduation that paid enough for me to stay.  So I tried for five months and accepted the first job that was offered to me… and it was in another city, so I moved into a garage so I could work there.  In one of my earlier posts I mention that the animals I took care of ate better then I did… I wasn’t joking.  They had fresh rotisserie chicken, rice, and gourmet dog food.  I had pot pies, dollar bags of pasta, and ramen.

Like the article explains when you finally begin to crawl your way out of “being poor” you, well I, found that I wasn’t well equipped to live with money.  If I get money for a birthday or a holiday, I use it to buy something “I wouldn’t buy for myself” because I can’t rationalize buying the new clothes/books/games/or fancy dinner when we’re living so close to the edge.  It sucks to buy your groceries on your credit card because you’re afraid you’ll need the cash in your account to make your car payment.

We are trying to get better about budgeting and such but it is quite discouraging how fast credit card debt climbs and how slowly it goes down.  I had a credit card that was over $3000 when I moved to BigCity.  We finally paid it off recently!  We did it with the generous financial contributions of our tax return, holiday money, and a mentality of JUST PAY THE DAMN THING AND EAT RAMEN FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS!  We did it! Woo!  FINALLY! We spent a blissful four days dreaming about how fast we were going to pay off my husband’s car now that we had so much “extra money.”

And then of course life hit and now that same card has crept back up to $1871.46 in less then 6 months.  It’s not that we go out all the time and buy frivolous things… it’s that after years of “not being able to afford to go to the doctor or dentist” we finally went and SURPRISE: I needed 2 root canals and 4 fillings and my husband needed 7 fillings.  I had one root canal and am getting the fillings done next month and my husband is getting his fillings done this month.  Also, his car broke down again.  I hate playing what I call “Car Roulette.”  Car Roulette is when your car breaks and the mechanic spins a giant Repair Wheel before telling you how much it’s going to cost to patch up the car this time.  Bonus points:  routine maintenance that should get done soon.  Add to that the rising cost of electricity now that it’s summer… We’re hoping he gets a job soon!

Bright side:  The dentist I found was EXCELLENT and it was the best root canal I’ve ever had.  (For the record, it was my third root canal.)  It was so not-as-awful-as-I-expected, that I’m not as scared about the next one (which I will have when we can afford it).

Another Bright Side: This too will pass.  We have made it through tougher times together and someday we’ll look back on all this and laugh.

On Finding New Authors

I am a huge fan of @LAGilman and have read many the  books she’s published.  My particular favorites are the Paranormal Scene Investigations and Retrievers series.  In addition to loving the way she tells stories, her characters, the plots of her books, the language she uses, and the feeling I get when I read her books, I’ve also fallen in love with the physical books themselves.  These two wonderful series are published by LUNA Books, an imprint of the Canadian Harlequin publishing company. I love the large sized softcover books and the font/typeface and the cover art. In addition to Ms. Gilman’s wonderful series, I have enjoyed other series published by LUNA as well.  I am also a fan of Mercedes Lackey, CE Murphy, and Anne Kelleher as well.

Sometimes you love a book or are so intrigued by the story that you just have to know how it ends, so you pick up the next book in the series, and the next, and the next, until you have run out of books.  Then you look for something else to fill that space that only good fiction can fill in your imagination.  You look to other books an author has published.  When you have finally run out of books by an author… then where do you turn?  I turn to their website to find out when their next book is coming out!  Most of the time the odds are not in my favor and I have a while to wait. Then I turn to other authors and devour their books as well.  Sometimes when enough authors you enjoy have published books with the same publishing company, it is worth checking out other authors just because they have published books with the same company.  That is how I found a new series this past weekend.

As I was browsing a local bookstore this past Sunday my eye was caught by the LUNA logo on a series I had never heard of before.   I was not in the mood for a romance novel and was not in the romance section.  Sometimes I enjoy breezing through a romance novel for the (forgive me) novelty of it… but most of the time I enjoy more intrigue and conflict to my novels as opposed to heaving bosoms and lustful glances.  The LUNA books I’ve read often have a flair of romance to the stories; many times their books can even be found in Paranormal Romance sections of bookstores.  I don’t always agree with that classification because, for example, I’m more a fan of categorizing Ms. Gilman’s books as “Urban Fantasy” then “Paranormal Romance.”  That romance category just doesn’t lend the depth to the books I feel like they deserve… But back to the story.  I was browsing in the B section looking for a book I haven’t read yet by Steven Brust (which I found! woo!) when I saw a section by LUNA.  I pulled out a blue book called “The Song of Unmaking” by Caitlin Brennan and having read the back cover, it sounded fairly interesting.  I flipped through the over sized paperback’s pages; it was a similar font/typeface to the Retrievers!  I read the first line. I decided to buy the book.  But then I realized it was the second book in a series-a bittersweet revelation… On the one hand, “yay the series has more then one book!” On the other hand, “What if the first book isn’t as interesting as this one sounds?”

I checked out the first book.  It was called “The Mountain’s Call.”  It had horses on the cover…but so did the second book.  And a girl in a white dress looking distressed…the girl was on the second cover as well.  *sigh* I read the back.  *sigh* It did not sound like the book I was wandering around trying to find.  I read the first line.  I was not hooked like I was with the second book.  I decided to just buy the one instead of buying both.  Then I decided I wasn’t ready to commit and I was just going to carry it around the store with me until I made a decision about it.  (1: That’s how I shop.  2:I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure. 3: This method totally works for decision making!)  As I was walking around my fingers slipped between the pages and my eyes slid across the first page.  Then the second page. Then they crept onto the third page and I almost ran into a wall.  I grinned and decided to buy the book.

Last night I decided to start the book before bed.  Sometimes books grab you right away and are hard to put down but I hadn’t invested in this book yet so I was willing to gamble.  Yeeaaahhhhh…. 246 pages later it was almost 1 in the morning and I was going to get less than 5 hours of sleep, IF I went to sleep RIGHT THEN, which of course I COULDN’T because then I wouldn’t know what was going to happen to Kerrec!  The insidiousness of Ms. Brennan’s chapter layouts are what got me.  Her book has a theme of patterns.  I noticed early on that approximately every 10 pages was a chapter break.  It lent the story a feeling of movement, a paced rhythm, a pattern.  (It is not something I would have noticed last year but now that I’m on the other side of having written my first novel, I notice things like paragraph breaks and points of view.)  10 pages does not feel like a lot when you are enjoying a story and want to know what is going to happen to the charming main character and all the odd twists her life has taken since she left home.  I fell into the “just one more chapter” trap and enjoyed every minute of it.  Tonight I sat down after work and finished the book.  And then I felt the need to write about it.  I think the book was charming.  It was not what I expected or thought I wanted but I was charmed while reading it and will be picking up the second one tomorrow. 🙂 I am not a “horse person”  I have ridden horses maybe twice in my life but I was not one of the horse crazy girls I was friends with in school.  I’ve spent countless hours in Valdemar with Companions and read and reread Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series with the magical messenger horses but I don’t read many “horse stories.”  I was not sure I would buy into the whole “Horse Gods” aspect of this new series.  As I was reading I realized it didn’t matter that I don’t know much about horses and don’t find them particularly interesting.  What was interesting was the main character who did care, passionately and successfully shared that passion with me as a reader that I was willing to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in a story about a girl who becomes a Rider of Gods who appear as horses.  Even though this was not a book I would normally have picked up, I’m glad that I did.  I’m glad that I took the chance because LUNA Books once again published an enchanting book.

I am excited about this new method of author finding that I’ve discovered.  I will have to continue to branch out and try new authors because that will help me grow as a reader and as a writer.  For now, I’m off to bed to make up for lost sleep… I will probably dream of white horses.