An Exciting Evening!

I really should be getting myself to bed.  Actually I should have done it an hour or so ago, but here I sit, procrastinating again.  Well, it’s not really procrastination; it’s more that with the schedule I’ve been keeping, my brain just isn’t ready to give it up for the night.  Not yet.

And I know I’m going to regret it in the morning when the alarm starts blaring at five-thirty, but I need to keep the car so I can keep an appointment with my eye doctor.  The doctor who will, hopefully, release me to drive after more than two years.  At the appointment I intend to drive to tomorrow.

Yeah.  Okay.  So I’ve been cheating.  Sort of.  Technically I was released from vision therapy sixteen months ago.  And even more technically, I was supposed to start some driving ‘lessons’ with an instructor who specializes in head injuries nineteen months ago (to make sure my depth perception was back to normal), until the insurance company decided I was fine and canceled them.

So anyway, since I couldn’t get an appointment until August, I decided I was going to try driving a little when I got the pool membership in June.  It’s only a mile from my house and I knew my depth perception was fine again.  And I was right.  Two and a half months with no problems, except being nervous after having been chauffeured everywhere for so long.  After a couple of weeks, I even started driving to the grocery store and a few dental appointments.

Now I just need the official release so I don’t have to feel guilty anymore.

However…

That’s not really why I wanted to write a blog before I head into bed (so I can toss and turn for the next three hours).  Nope, I have an even better reason.

I have tried, off and on, for a few years now to locate the student teacher from my ninth grade creative writing class.  I remembered her name, her husband’s name and very little other information to help me find her.

But one night, not too long ago, I was extremely bored…and even more determined, so I did a Facebook search.  And I found her name all right.  Lots of them.  So many, in fact, that I’m surprised my chin didn’t hit the keyboard.  My determination didn’t waver though, and I started checking out every single profile, until I found one that looked promising.

And I sent her a quick, poorly worded, straight to the point Facebook message.  What can I say, it was late and as is usually the case at that hour of the morning, my brain was begging me to let it sleep.

Are you wondering what happened?

I heard back from her tonight…and she is the same student teacher I’ve been looking for so long!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was.  Kind of like my daughter was the day she got to meet Bucky Covington, privately, because she was too young to get into the saloon he was performing at.

After all this time I still consider this woman to be my mentor because, but for her, I might never have had the courage to write that first, embarrassingly immature book.  While I can’t recall the exact words, every time I begin a new book, I remember her encouragement after reading my earliest efforts at writing.  And I have always, always wanted to find a way to thank her.

And now I have the opportunity to do exactly that…and to get to know her all over again.

So, Linda Marks…from the bottom of my heart thank you!  Because of you, I have spent countless hours doing one of the things I love the most in the world.

And now I’m going to make my way into my hopefully chilly bedroom, where I might get some relief from the mosquitoes (which, incidentally, I still hate with a passion!).  Maybe I’ll even manage to get a little sleep….  🙂

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Well, I finally did it…

A couple of Christmases ago I decided I needed to find a new hair stylist.  Bad timing, I know, but I have a lot of hair.  It’s not just long, it’s really thick.  And if I don’t put some effort into it, I can have a sort of Bozo thing going on.  So with my family holiday party looming, I decided it was time to tame things down just a bit.

‘Just a bit’ translated into more hair on the floor than was left on my head though, and I cried off and on for days…but only when trying to learn to use a flat iron.  Because let me tell you, thick hair without any weight to help pull it down gives new meaning to ‘bad hair day.’

It took me about a year and a half before I worked up the courage to go back.  I liked the stylist and thought maybe if I explained what it was that I wanted a little more clearly, I might have better luck.

Well…

She remembered my phone call after the first disaster, thanking her for ruining my Christmas (she had caller I.D., darn it!).

But we got past it (I thought), and I sat down in the chair for the second time.  She starts running her fingers through my hair, lifting it up and sighing.  Then she said, ‘You really have the hair thing going on, don’t you?  If I were you, I’d chop it all off.”

Oh hey.  You know I just don’t see that happening because I actually like having long hair.  So what happened?  She barely trimmed it.  Badly.  Maybe I deserved it for that phone call, but I was justifiably upset.  And it’s not like I cussed her out or anything.

Regardless, I still had the sort of Bozo thing going on and knew I had to do something about it.  As I lamented about my head full of frizz one day, my daughter reminded me that there’s a new place in town we should check out.

After some thought, a lot of thought, I stopped by one day a few weeks ago.  And I basically interviewed her.  I see that she has short hair, is she okay with cutting long hair?  Explaining what happened the last two times, and exactly what I wanted, she assured me that she had no problem with it.

So it was back home to think about it.  For about three more weeks.

I finally went in to get the cut today.  And I love it!  At least I did when I left the shop.  She not only kept the length, she also managed to get the layers in…and thin it out quite a bit in the process!  Of course she used a couple of hair products, a hair dryer, and a flat iron, too.

Only I’m kind of a wash and wear girl.  I want it look nice without a lot of hassle.  So I just washed it and we’ll see if I still love it when it dries.  Without any help, without any gels or mousse or spray.  It’s only partially dry at the moment, but it’s looking promising.

Guess I have a new stylist. 

Even my daughter is impressed-and not only because she finally got the cut she wanted.  The woman just happens to be friends with someone who went to school with Taylor Lautner.  Even though she’s Switzerland, she still likes Taylor and she thought that was very cool.  I, however, am Team Jacob all the way.  But if this woman wasn’t a good stylist, the fact that she knows someone who knows Taylor Lautner wouldn’t keep me going back.  🙂

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Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

I wish I were a bit more awake right now, but I’m not and there’s not much I can do about it tonight.  However, I wanted to write one more quick blog about an exciting event I’ve signed up for.  It’s called the Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign.

While I admit I’m going to have to read everything again tomorrow, after I’ve had some sleep (and most importantly, after my Melatonin has worn off!), I’m very excited about the opportunity to get to know other writers and bloggers.  The challenges and groups sound like they will be a lot of fun, too.

I encourage anyone who reads my blog, who is also a blogger or author, to check it out Just go to http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html and sign up.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to learning all I can, and meeting new people!

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Help!

I know I’ve mentioned that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism this past spring, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I tend to have some less than normal symptoms.  It’s not surprising given the fact that my body doesn’t always respond to ‘normal’ things in the way it should respond.

For example, the fact that I wound up needing seven shots at the dentist’s office before she could pull my tooth, the final one being the most painful of all.  Or the fact that I was ‘pulling my feet out of the strap’ during my last C-section because the epidural didn’t work as well as the anesthesiologist thought it had.

Well, turns out I have to be just a bit different with the hypothyroidism, too.  While most people afflicted with this peachy little problem find that they’re almost always cold, I am not.  In the winter I sometimes have trouble with the cold, but mostly I just plain and simply too warm.  Of course that’s not a ‘normal’ symptom, though a minority of people are also affected this way.  I’m not alone!

Apparently the medication I’m taking for it affects me in mysterious ways as well.

I was started out on the smallest dose of Synthroid there is.  I’m actually okay with that since I’ve never been much into taking medications of any sort.  And the small dose was working.  It brought my TSH levels down slightly.  Not enough, though, so the doctor doubled it about three weeks ago.

On one hand, I’m kind of feeling better.  On another, I think I’m sleeping more hours sometimes.  And on yet another, most days I’m more tired than I’ve ever been.  Yes, I know that’s three hands…  Really, I only have two.

You’re not supposed to be more tired with treatment, but there it is.  Along with another handful of people (probably the same ones that are too warm instead of too cold), I find myself feeling like I’m in the Arizona room at the gym.

Anyway…

My reason for explaining all of this?  Because I’ve been slacking off my blogging.  It’s tough to be creative when you start yawning the second you crawl out of bed.  I will be making a better effort to combat the fatigue with B-12, coconut oil and mega doses of vitamin C.

Hopefully my body will adjust to the higher dose of Synthroid and, before you know it, I’ll be back to blogging regularly.  🙂

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What a weekend!

Tomorrow will be two full weeks since I started eating gluten-free.  And while it’s not the easiest thing in the world, it’s also not the hardest either.  In fact, I haven’t had many problems at all.  There are still many foods I love that are allowed.

My solution for fast food?  A baked potato from Wendy’s and two Whopper patties that I bring home and eat like a real meal.   A chocolate craving gets a little too strong to ignore?  Butterfinger candy bars are allowed (yay!).  In need of comfort food?  Tinkyada pasta to the rescue.  Can’t tell the difference between ‘real’ macaroni and cheese and the gluten-free version I made last week.

The only thing that’s caused me any concern at all is this weekend.  Yesterday was the annual pig roast my brother’s host every year.  All the guests bring a dish to pass, and they provide…obviously…the meat.

I’ve always brought mashed potatoes and gravy, which meant peeling enough spuds to feed a small army, and cooking a pork roast for the broth.  I’d add a couple of packages of pork gravy mix, and the results have been very tasty.  Except this year I had to make a small batch just for me because the dry mix contains wheat.

I was also worried because I knew some of my favorite foods would be sitting on the buffet tables.  Favorites I can no longer eat.  Would I be strong enough to do the right thing?  Absolutely.  The only thing I did wrong was to assume the chocolate covered Rice Krispies treats were safe.  I mean rice?  It sounded safe enough.  But having three of the little squares likely explains the almost overwhelming fatigue I’ve had to deal with today.

And that does lead us to today…my family reunion.

If I thought the pig roast was going to be challenging, it doesn’t hold a candle to the reunion.  None of my mother’s scalloped potatoes or apple pie?  Goodbye to the cheesy potatoes with the crunchy topping, a specialty of one aunt.  And another aunt’s rice/chicken/broccoli/cheese casserole…no more (because it contains a cream soup with…you guessed it…a wheat product).

But surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a problem not eating all those foods.   Yeah, I was a little bummed out about it, but it was a very fleeting feeling.  Instead, I decided I was just going to have to find a way to alter the recipes so I can still enjoy them.  Just probably not at the same picnic or pig roast, because in order for me to eat all of those dishes, I’d have to make all of the dishes.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t make them all, one at a time, to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

So all in all, I’m very pleased with the way the weekend food orgy went.  I did eat the one gluten containing food, but that is because I assumed it was a safe food (and to be honest, I’m not really sorry because it was still really good!).  It gives me hope that I will survive the coming holiday season without feel completely deprived.

For now, though, I think I’m going to have to find a recipe for that chocolate covered crispy rice treat that’s safe for me to eat.  On the other hand, I’m the only one in the house that has to do gluten-free thing, which means they’d all be mine.

Hmm.  Might not be the best idea I’ve ever had, even though my taste buds are thinking it is.

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Rules are made to be broken

I just finished reading a review on a book that, unfortunately, I have no interest in reading.  What caught my attention was that the reviewer suggested that the author fix a couple of problems that editors might have a problem with…twice.  And that really rankles.

Don’t get me wrong, I think editors are a good and necessary evil when it comes to turning out a good product.  But they’re also one of the things about traditional publishing that I find offensive.

There are so many rules that authors must abide by, if they hope to be picked up by a publishing company.  Word count, a particular number of conflicts, a certain formula, format, font, margin setting… And if the author doesn’t comply during rewrites, if they’re even given a chance to do rewrites, they can kiss any sort of contract goodbye.

By today’s standards, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) and The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) would be too short for most publishers, who seem to want books that average 50,000-75,000 words.  And Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) would be edited from 423,575 words to a shadow of the timeless classic it has become.  Or, at the very least, broken up into a series of several books instead of one giant one.  Of course then I suppose the movie would have been treated the same, with parts 1, 2, 3….

These authors told the stories they wanted to tell.  And while I’m sure their publishers had some guidelines, I can’t imagine that they were as stringent as what ‘modern’ authors have to deal with.  I mean, really, can you imagine any publisher having the guts to tell Mark Twain that his books were too short?

What if ABCDEFG Publishing has a requirement of 50-55,000 words, but I managed to tell my story, and to tell it well, in 48,000?  Would I have to add a chapter’s worth of unnecessary prose in order to meet their exacting standards?

Or what if it took 61,500 words to tell the story that needed to be told?  Obviously I would have to do some serious editing to par the book down, possibly requiring the need to eliminate something I felt was necessary to the quality of the story.

And that’s why I’m falling in love with self-publishing.  Right or wrong, in a publisher’s or editor’s eyes, I can tell the story.  I don’t have to conform to a cookie-cutter formula.  So what if my word count is off by a few thousand, one way or the other?  As long as I start at the beginning and arrive at the end, as long as it’s a good and entertaining story, who cares how many words are living between the covers?

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Please, do not feed the mosquitoes!

Okay, I accept the fact that I’m probably going to make some enemies by saying this but…I can’t wait until winter gets here!  I honestly do not remember another summer when I’ve had so many mosquito bites and, frankly, if I wanted to donate this much blood, I’d head on over to the Red Cross.  As it is, if this keeps up, I may have to drop by there anyway because I’ll be needing a blood transfusion!

I wish I knew what it was about me that attracts them, because I’d certainly do whatever I could to rectify it.  But they’ve always seemed to favor me over anyone I’m near.

Find that hard to believe?

I think most people do, until they experience it for themselves.  I used to walk on these pretty, paved paths through a wooded area at the park with a few other ladies.  Well, ‘used to walk’ is kind of exaggerating.  I walked with them a few times before I threw in the towel and gave up.  Why?  Because mosquito repellents didn’t deter the little bloodsuckers at all.  Neither did dryer sheets,  vinegar water, or anything else I could find to try.  Nope, I’d finish the walks looking like I had the measles.

But this summer feels like those woods have moved to my house.  Inside my house!  And I think they must have joined a union and organized.  As God is my witness, I went to the grocery store the other day with twin mosquito bites…on either side of my face, about an inch from the corners of my eyes.  That was an interesting site.

So, hate me if you must.  I really do want to see an end to summer.  Throw tomatoes at me if it makes you feel better.  Wait!  Throw snowballs instead.  Aim for the mosquitoes that are presently feeding off me like a buffet. 🙂

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Geronimo!

I have spent a good portion of the past two days doing what I should have been doing the past couple of weeks, after writer’s block found me and decided to stick around awhile.  At least as far as one particular book goes.   I think it was able to sneak up on me because, in my heart, I really wanted to be working on something else.

Normally I’m very good about finishing what I start, just not this time.

I believe it’s due to the fact that,  at some point during the past few years, I seem to have become quite charmed by a genre I never expected to develop an interest in.  And for the past two  years I’ve kind of played around with plot ideas and building a character list for something I kind of thought I might want to write.  In fact, I went so far as to write a couple of bare bones chapters and the prologue.

But that’s as far as it went.

I think my brain just needed some time to mull everything over.  To pull it out occasionally, ponder what I already had, and give some thought to the whys behind the story.  I knew I needed some questions answered.  Because, until they were, there really was no sense in moving forward.

The best way I can explain what I mean is to use this example.  Let’s say you take time off work, pack your bags and jump in your car to take off on vacation.  The only problem is, you didn’t decide on a destination, much less the route you’ll take to get there, so you don’t know which way to turn when you pull out of your driveway.

Writing is a lot like that dilemma.   If you don’t know where your characters and plot are going, you’re not going to know what to do in order to reach ‘the end.’

Now that all seems to have fallen into place.  Mostly.  But I’m at the point now where it’s time to meet, and get to know, my characters.  And that’s going to be a challenge.  Why?   Well…there will be four very major players in this tale, but there are also going to be eighteen more who have very large roles.  And a fair number of extras  who, while not nearly as important to the plot, are still necessary to round everything out.

So as you can see, it’s just a little overwhelming.

Anyway,  that’s what I’ve been working on the past couple of days.  That and the chapter outline for the first book in this trilogy.

Did I mention that I also need to research what the lifestyle was like several decades ago?  No?  Well…there is that, too.

But you know what?  These things are all on my list of favorite things about writing.  Yes, sometimes I know it will feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but for the most part, I’m going to love every second of it.

On a side note, I honestly, truly, sincerely hate mosquitoes…

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My Friday adventure

I visited my first Amish Market this afternoon, and I have to say it was a very unique experience.  I didn’t even know they had markets, or that there was one in the area (about 20 minutes from my house).

Unique is always good, in my opinion.  Especially when it tends to be old fashioned, like Mr. Godsey’s from The Walton’s.  A local apple orchard runs a store that ‘feels’ like that might have felt, open from October through the first of the year.

I love that store.  It smells just wonderful.  And not only do they make the best donuts on the planet (donuts I won’t be able to have anymore darn it!), they make delicious cider, and have things like cookbooks, candles, apple pectin, candies, pies, all sorts of decorations and endless items to tempt tourists.  In the fall they have a haunted hayride, a maze cut out of a cornfield and other fun things to do with the family.

While there a few years ago, and acting like a tourist myself, I bought a pad of outhouse stationary.  No it wasn’t classy in any way, but it was funny and I adored it.  Sure hope they stock it again because I’ve been out for too long.

But back to the Amish market.  That place is just too cool!  Well, if you’re not much into baking it might not be but, when you’ve been referred to as Susie Homemaker enough times, as I have, you know I’m in my element when I step inside.

Shelves and shelves of every kind of ingredient you might ever need to turn out scrumptious baked goods and, most importantly, a huge variety of gluten-free flours (which was the reason I was there).  I spent a small fortune on them, and a bunch of cute fruit jars to store them in.  And I’m already wishing I hadn’t bought so much because I can’t wait to go back.

Why?

Because I’m thinking that the whole lifestyle, and the atmosphere I felt in the store, might have the makings of a really good story.   Everything about the experience was awesome, not just the market.  My daughter and I got to see Amish men harvesting fields with horse drawn…things(harvesters?), fresh produce stands that I really want to visit, and very impressive gardens.  And there was the cutest, tiniest little girl walking along the dirt road who smiled and waved  both times we passed her.  Such a different world than the one I’m used to.  So yeah, I’m thinking there’s going to be a story there somewhere.

For now, though, I think I’m going to kick back, relax, and read the cookbook I bought while I was there.

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One good reason to change pharmacies

Well I seem to have acquired a nasty little computer virus that has, despite my best efforts, wreaked havoc with my computer.  At this point my system restore and Windows search feature are trashed.  My antivirus refuses to update.  Google is screwed up, and I’m afraid to look too closely at anything else.

So, after determining that viruses can not be transferred by copying and pasting text, I am taking a break from hours of copying all of my text files to CD’s.  And doing the same with all the URL’s I’ve saved for researching my books (and other interests of mine).

I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I absolutely, positively despise doing this.  It’s not the first time either.  In October of 2008 my poor computer was on its last legs, so I had to quickly save everything to be moved to a new machine.  It was just as boring then as it is now, only then I had about twenty-three hours of music files that I’d accumulated through the years.  And somewhere along the line, those music files disappeared, much to my disgust.  I think my daughter and I put them on another computer that has since passed on to electronics heaven.

Back to tonight though.  My hope is that if I remove every possible file and link, then uninstall everything that isn’t absolutely necessary, my antivirus and anti-spyware programs will figure out where the little sucker is hiding.

Anyway…  I guess I got a little off track, didn’t I?

During the course of transferring everything to disks, I found something I jotted down a couple of years ago.  Something I’ve thought about from time to time, but usually forget about.

This incident involved my youngest daughter, who wound up with a respiratory infection.  Because I couldn’t get an immediate doctor’s appointment, I’d taken her to Urgent Care.  That doctor gave her a prescription, but suggested that we wait a few days to get it filled.  Why?  To see if it got better on its own.

Of course you know that it did not, so off to the pharmacy I go.

I have always hoped that the girl who took the prescription from me wasn’t a technician. Because, after entering the information into their computer, she started to explain something about a slim chance that my daughter could have an allergic reaction to this medication as already she had an allergy to a similar one.

The more she talked, the more nervous I became, so I started asking some questions, the final one being, “Does that mean she could have a fatal reaction?”

Her cheerful, upbeat response?

“Oh yes, she could!  But if she does, she needs to stop taking it right away.”

Ya think?

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