Blog, Photography, Ramblings

Peeking in…

I’ve been quite MIA here, I know. It’s been a whirlwind of a month, but a great one! From my son’s preschool graduation, to an amazing SCBWI conference, to staring an online YA Class with Mandy Hubbard, to getting accepted into Lynn Hightower’s Novel IV class at UCLA Extension, to a week in Orlando. Add to that summer classes ending and prepping for the new term that starts Mon (all during vacation), and you have a recipe for craziness. But I’ll come back soon, and I may just elaborate more on some of the above.

Oh! And I added my Twitter feed on here in case you want to follow me! I update that a little more lately. Something about bite-sized messages I can do from my phone makes it easier to update. šŸ™‚

In the meantime, I’m sharing this pic from our trip. Hubby is getting into photography. He takes the camera everywhere and is always taking pictures of everything, especially nature and architecture (and he’s pretty good!). So for Father’s Day, I signed him up for a Nature Photography class. He was super excited! Anyway, on one of the afternoons after my conference, we took a walk. We were staying at Disney’s Yacht Club and the walk consisted of making the loop through the Boardwalk, where my son begged and begged for a disposable camera. He also loves taking pictures! We got him one and he spent the rest of the walk stopping with hubby to take pictures. In this one, two bunnies were in the grass and it was such a cute shot of them both, father and son, both with cameras in their hands.

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Blog, Health, Ramblings, Writing

Random Monday

1. I received Veronica Roth’s bookĀ Insurgent wirelessly into my phone on May 1st. I was going to wait, really, I was, but I couldn’t. I started reading at 5ish in the morning and, by the evening, I had finished the book. I had read the first book in her trilogy,Ā Divergent, last year and was hooked on her story. It is similar toĀ The Hunger Games in several ways, but, as much as I hate to admit it because I lovedĀ The Hunger Games,Ā DivergentĀ was better I think. So when I receivedĀ Insurgent, I was hooked. Much of what I liked in the first book was there (the characters, the plot line, the world, the factions, and of course, the love story), but there was more action, the characters were developed further, and secrets were revealed. Now I have to wait until she finishes book 3, which I think is rumored to come out some time at the end of next year. *gasp* I have to wait a whole year! I’ve never gotten hooked on a book so early on. The HP series was almost all out when I started reading them, andĀ The Hunger Games trilogy was also all out when I first read book 1. This will be very interesting indeed.

2. I submitted my writing sample and application for the Novel Writing IV course at UCLA Writer’s Extension Program with Lynn Hightower. I am super excited and psyched about taking that class as I’m hoping it will get me closer to my end goal: completing a polished draft of my novel by the end of the summer. Now I wait (have I mentioned how much I dislike waiting…?) and cross my fingers. I should hear back some time around June 14 whether or not I got in.

3. I also submitted the first chapter of my novel for a manuscript consultation at the SCBWI Florida Summer Workshop 2012Ā this June. I’m scheduled for the Novel workshops and have requested a manuscript consultation. I’m hoping to take away as much, if not more, as I did this past January at the Miami Conference. I’m nervous and excited about this. I’ve had manuscript consultations before (twice on my memoir and twice with great feedback), but this will be the first YA manuscript consultation.

4. I’m listening to an audio book: Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride, a contemporary YA novel. I know audio books aren’t knew, but it’s the first time I’ve ever listened to one! It was weird at first. I didn’t like listening to the book. But after a while, I got into it. I’m in chapter 5, I think. I’ve downloaded it to my iPhone so I can take it with me to waiting rooms and such.

5. Next Monday, I’m having my gallbladder removed. I’m a little nervous but more anxious to start feeling better. I’m tired of the nausea and pain and the inability to freaking eat. It’s gotten to the point where even the bland stuff I don’t tolerate. So while I’m not keen on losing yet another body part (lost my appendix when I was 9), I am looking forward to feeling better. It should be a quick and easy surgery and I hear the recovery time is minimal (barring any complications, of course). I’m also looking forward to some R&R and being pampered.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Five Random Thoughts…Because I’m feeling random today

1. I absolutely, positively, no questions asked love the 2004 filmĀ The Phantom of the Opera. It is one of the most beautiful adaptations with exquisite detail to set and costume. And of course, there’s the music: it’s hauntingly beautiful. It’s the kind of music that reaches deep into your core and moves you. Andrew Lloyd Weber is a genius. I have to admit that I saw the movie before I ever saw the Broadway production, and that the production I saw was a traveling one, when they came many years ago to South Florida. Though I liked that version, it simply didn’t live up to the art that was the movie (and I love live theater!)

It had been a couple of years since I’d last seen it, and a few weekends ago, my husband and I had a date night in. We pulled out the movie and watched it, marveling again at each part, each song. And I keep replaying the songsĀ –I can’t get enough of them.

2. I am definitely an English teacher and my son is definitely an English teacher’s son. Today, as we were getting ready for bed and I was reading him some bible stories, I went into a short lesson on what a metaphor was. And he listened to everything I had to say, repeating the word back to me and trying out an example with it. He’s four. Yep. Definitely an English teacher’s kid.

3. I want to seeĀ The Hunger GamesĀ so badly. Like, really, really, really badly. It’s like whenĀ Harry Potter came out and every inch of me itched to go see it. That’s me now. Waiting. (Im)patiently. Tapping my toes, strumming my fingers, flipping through the pages, again. Just waiting. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, which makes the waiting that much more unbearable.

4. I’m eagerly awaiting Veronica Roth’s book Insurgent to come out. I think it’s May; I pre-ordered it on my phone. Sometime before it comes out, I’ll have to re-readĀ Divergent so that it’s fresh in my mind. It’s one of several books that I want to read this summer.

5. I want summer to get here. Now. I’m not a very patient person (though I can be). Four more weeks until this term is over and grades are due. After that, though I’m teaching online courses in the summer, the hours during the day are mine for a glorious month while my son is in school. That means I will have four days, for five weeks, to just write. Of course, I have to factor in some gym time, my gallbladder surgery, and some grading, but I will have more uninterrupted writing time than I do during the regular terms. And I just can’t wait! My goal of finishing the first draft by the end of summer is very much within my grasp…I can almost feel it. And I’m anxious to finish it now. So I can begin really revising it and whipping it into shape; though I tend to write and revise as I go along (I can’t just write from start to finish–I do a lot of back and forth), I won’t feel as if I’m truly revising until the whole damn thing is done. I already have agents I want to query and other stories floating up there in my mind, so I just need to finish writing this thing. Now. šŸ˜‰

Blog, Ramblings

Valentine’s Day – an Afterthought

I had mighty and noble intentions to blog on Valentine’s Day. Not only because it’s a, well, hallmark holiday or because it seemed fitting, but because it was the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death. The day started and picked up speed, and before I knew it, it was bed time, I was exhausted, and I was void of words. So I didn’t blog.

But today is a new day and one that is not laden with to-do’s (or rather, one in which I can briefly ignore the growing to-do list).

If I’m honest with myself, I just wasn’t feeling Vday this year. I can’t remember if I felt this way last year (or the year before, or the year before that…), but with me being amidst a flare, and with the pain and exhaustion that comes with it, I just wasn’t feelingĀ well enough to care this year. Then there was the fact that Vday fell on a Tuesday (a teaching day), we had an appointment to file our taxes after work, and I was remembering the aftermath of my dad’s death four years go. That doesn’t exactly spell out romance.

Still, my son was excited and he kept counting down until Vday. The night before, my husband helped him fill out Vday Transformer cards and pack small, pink, white and silver wrapped chocolate nuggets for his classmates. For us, he wrote his name and learned how to draw hearts–something he was extremely proud of!–and kept giggling as we had him write and draw on the other’s card. It made me smile. We had also bought him a small token, a “Green Power” (translated: Green Lantern) blanket. And even though the cards and chocolates didn’t quite work out (another post for another day, I guess), he still had a sweet day.

Today, when my husband picked up our son (L) from school, the kids were resting on the carpet. L was lying next to one of the little girls he likes (they’re all 4/5). According to the teacher, L was caressing her faceĀ and they were saying to each other: “From my heart to yours.” It’s one of those moments (for all moms, I think) that is both endearing and frightening as I get a flash to his future, teenage self when he falls in love for the first time (and, conversely, when he gets his heart broken for the first time). The sweetness of that gesture, though, full of innocence, had his teacher and us saying, “Awwwww.” It reminded me of how sweet and caring and loving my son is, traits that I absolutely love. He’s full of hugs and I-love-you’s and sweet kisses–and I hope he never changes.

Blog, Ramblings

Blessed

There are days when a simple image stays lodged in the depths of your consciousness, serving as a reminder that you are blessed beyond measure.

Yesterday, on my way to pick up my son from school, I was stopped at a light. I had Radio Disney on, only not so loud because I had a headache, and I had the opposite of a productive day because I had felt crummy all day. Headache, nausea, and fatigue. All this was on my mind as I looked up and saw someone weaving through the parked cars, asking for money.

Asking for money isn’t new at the intersections here. If it’s not the Homeless Voice, it’s an increasing number of people, some homeless, some not, asking for money. Kids in some sport raising money for an upcoming trip. Men in their thirties or forties, with signs that read “Will Work for Food,” or women, apparent immigrants, also with signs though their stories differ. I’ve seen the same women and men at different intersections throughout the city. And I’ve seen the same man at the same intersection, day after day.

Yesterday, though, I saw someone I hadn’t seen before. He was in his fifties or sixties, perhaps. Wrinkled white skin, too pale, too patchy. He had a cardboard sign hanging from his neck that covered his entire upper body: “Cancer Survivor. Need Help.” I noticed the sign first. It was different. And then I noticed his face: he was missing a nose. Or, rather, where his nose should’ve been was a gaping, red hole. I probably gasped, and I tried not to stare. But, me impacto. My health problems are nothing, nothing, compared to his. I was humbled.

The light turned green and slowly, we all moved forward, onto our lives, leaving behind the smiling, nose-less man with the cardboard sign.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Productive Day

It’s late and I’m exhausted, but it’s been quite a productive day for writing! Days like this make me happy.

I worked on my novel project, which I had slightly neglected over the last three weeks. I mean, I still scribbled notes here and there, but I hadn’t done any serious writing for it. Today I did, in part thanks to the start of the Novel II class I’m taking through UCLA’s Writers’ Extension, and in part thanks to my friend who has recently completed her manuscript for a collection of poems (or a novel-in-verse). I am feeling a little better, and writing + incense + Adele = a very happy and relaxed me. It’s just the way it is.

I also revised one of the leveled readers I was working on (seems like forever!) using the guidelines I got from the Leveled Reader Intensive at the SCBWI Miami Conference. I have one other leveled reader that is practically finished, and I want to work on a third. I started the cover letter (shudder – I hate those!) so at least I feel like I’m one step closer to sending that out.

Progress!

So now to sleep because I’m falling asleep at the keyboard and have stopped being useful.

Blog, Health, Ramblings

Patchwork

The problem with illness is that it can threaten to demoralize you, picking you apart at the seams, unravelling you until all that’s left is a ghost of who you once were.

At least that’s how, on the worst days, I feel. Like now. Like yesterday. When every part of me hurts and when I feel no one understands, not even my husband, because it hurts and all I want to do is stop and rest and crawl into a corner, away from everyone, and cry. And stop hurting.

It’s not just the pain that’s debilitating. There’s a stronger emotional and psychological repercussion at play, and anyone who’s experienced chronic pain, fatigue or illness will probably agree with this. At its worst, I feel like a failure. I can’t go to my son’s PTA meetings or run around with my son (I’m a horrible mother). I can’t go to work or head a student club (I’m no good as a teacher, colleague, worker). I can’t write (I’m never going to be considered a serious writer). I can’t… well, you get the picture. Consciously, I KNOW this is bullshit. It’s but a moment in time. It will get better; I will do those things, even if a little slower. But there’s a moment when I’m deep in despair and pain that I almost feel as if this illness is taking over. It’s all I can do to articulate that I can’t do this, that I’m drowning because of all the responsibilities which, though normal, seem great when everything hurts and it’s all I can do to get out of bed. And I collapse into a heap of tears and frustration and anger. And I sleep, restless. It’s a vicious cycle of pain and guilt and frustration.

The cycle breaks, though. It takes lots of deep breathing and crying and self-talking and sometimes meds to get back into a place that, though not as hopeful or optimistic as when I’m in remission, is enough that I can think of the cycle of the disease, that if I’m in a flare, with time (though how much time is never a given) I will go back to feeling better. That it’s possible to feel better again.

It’s that thread of silver that starts getting me back together, stitching me up slowly so that I can feel almost whole again.

Blog, Ramblings

Happy Birthday, Papi

Today is my father’s birthday. Or, rather, it would’ve been if he were still alive. He’d be turning 82.

Next month, on Valentine’s day, will be the fourth anniversary of his passing. Four years. My son’s age–he was six months when my father left this world of conflict and pain and frustration.

My father wasn’t one to celebrate birthdays. He never really saw the need. In fact, one of his favorite anecdotes, about birthdays, went something like this: “When I was growing up, I never had parties or anything of the like. No. It was simple. I needed pants, so for my birthday, I got pants.” I wish I could remember the exact way his words that left his mouth, but now the memory melts into the idea of what he said: no parties, just pants.

That never stopped me, though. I do like parties and celebrating–always have. So on his birthday, I would either make him a card or I would spend hours perusing the greeting card sections at Hallmark (or Publix or Eckerds, now CVS), and then I would pen what I thought was a beautifully written sentiment. And it usually was, except it was in Spanish, and my Spanish, though good, wasn’t perfect. When I gave him the card on his birthday, then, I grew accustomed to him reading it, pen in hand, correcting my grammar in the greeting card. I have to say, though, it stung a little, and sometimes, I would fight the tears that threatened to overcome my eyes. It was a card, damnit! I’d think. Just a card. I wanted him to read past the errors (which weren’t that many!) and get to what I wanted him to know: that despite the differences and hardships and fights, I still loved him.

But love, for my dad, was different. I realize that now.

For gifts, oh that was difficult. What do you get a man who doesn’t want anything? The only thing he wanted were cigarettes–Winston ones in the red and white box. Some birthdays, that’s what he’d get. He’d already made it clear he wasn’t going to stop smoking. Not after he went months without smoking, after his leg was amputated (is it weird that I can’t remember which one right now?) and he was in temporary hospice. Not after all his doctors kept regaƱandolo because he was slowly killing himself. No, he wasn’t going to stop smoking. He was a man of stories, anecdotes to make his point. So for this he’d remind us that when his mother, my grandmother, was dying of breast cancer, and all she wanted was a cigarette, he fought everyone to give her one last “gusto”– “She was dying anyway; who are we to deny the dying?” That was his motto, I guess, and since, in his mind he was dying (though his “dying” lasted well over a decade), he felt we should heed his argument without question. So on his birthdays, we would sometimes relent and wrap up a box of Winston cigarettes in bright birthday wrapping paper, place a big bow on it, and present it as his birthday present. Those were his happier birthdays, I think, and in his later years would elicit a series of chuckles as he put on his shirt, grabbed one of the cigarettes and his lighter, and rolled outside of the apartment to smoke his birthday gift.

I think of him often. Not only as a daughter thinking about her dad, but as a kindred spirit who is just beginning to understand the workings of that man. I didn’t understand while he was living; I didn’t understand when, as a teenager, I saw him break things and scream and make my mom cry. I didn’t understand his pain and in not understanding, I couldn’t help him. My mom, I think, understood him. I am only just beginning to understand as I tread through my own journey of illness. And I wish so many times he were still alive and I could ask him questions. I miss him.

So happy birthday, Papi. We love you.

Blog, Health, Ramblings

Rough Start

At the risk of sounding like a whining child, this sucks. This feeling of being crippled by pain because of stress or because of an emotional upset. I mean, really, am I supposed to live, from now on, completely void of stress and anger? I don’t think that’s possible.

The start of the term has brought with it that familiar deep throbbing in my bones and joints, and I’m only three days into the term.

Consciously, I know there might be a number of factors at work here. It’s the first week back, which is always the toughest as my body and mind transition from a period of rest to a period of constant activity. Then, there was that dispute I had with my son’s teacher, which thoroughly pissed me off and left me steaming since Wednesday. And of course, there’s t nervousness that comes with first days of class; though I’m not plagued with nightmares like I was when I started teaching, my heart still quickens, my palms still sweat, and I swear my voice still shakes a teeny tiny bit. In the back of my mind, I also consider the fact I’m not on the corticosteroid anymore, leaving me easy prey to the fibromyalgia and UCTD.

Regardless, I know this pain all too well. And it sucks.

But it’s curious; something I find myself thinking now is that I don’t want to give in. I liked feeling well enough this past term (after, of course, the first week passed). And dammit I’m going to feel well. I’m hoping once this next week is over, my body will begin to ease out of the pain. Without the corticosteroid. With rest. I can’t do it without rest, that’s for sure, but I think (I hope?) I can do it without more drugs.

Last year ended really well; I guess I was hoping to start 2012 the same way: feeling well.