I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Write From the Soul and Visualeyes

Off visiting family in Boston and then up to New Hampshire to the snow and cold (but a warm fireplace and windows with views of the mountains.) Back blogging in the new year. Happy 2K10 to all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Visualeyes 9

Here it is.... not an extraordinary car, but a good one none the less.
Last Sunday I went out to brunch with my friends, then we came back, signed the papers, took the pictures, and took me to the grocery store for one last ride with "my baby!" Then it was goodbye car, and I watched as it drove out of sight. (Very heavy sigh...) The rest of the day, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Normally on a weekend, I'd head over to the bookstore and find something calling my name. But, oops!
No  car. Monday morning, as is my habit, I checked outside to see what the weather was like, and there was a space, a parking space, where my car used to sit. No car.   By Tuesday, I HAD to get out of the house and bring some normalcy back into my life. So I made a list of errands I could do in the same general area- mail holiday cards and take small package to mail at UPS Store, pick up RX, drop off jewelry order at gift shop carrying my line. My determination was set and off I trekked, up- and I do mean UP- the street to wait for the bus. After the huffing and puffing and wheezing slowed down (and a hit off the old inhaler), I noticed that the weather was chillier than I thought. Did I have gloves with me? No. Did I have earmuffs or a scarf with me? No. Was my backpack checked for necessary things before I left? No. "The Planner" is going to have to plan better.

Got to the gift shop with jewelry-check- and then an uphill 3 minute walk to get the prescription. Two errands done. Now the steep, uphill "climb" to get to UPS for mailings-huff, puff, check- but I needed a stop to breathe. Saw the bus I needed at the stop about 200 yds. away so I took off at a slow run (remember I have a pack on my back) and made it there before he took off. Of course it turned out he wasn't leaving yet because this bus changes numbers mid route and it sits and waits at this particular stop for 15 minutes before it leaves with the new number on it! (Don't ask me why it changes, I don't get it.) This bus was , of course, going in the opposite direction from where I lived but it was chilly out, I was cold and the bus was warm, and I was tired from uphill walking. (I'm not in shape for all this mandatory exercise!)  I said to myself:  "Gail just go where the bus is going. You've never been to the end of this route; you'll learn where it goes for future reference. It's an adventure!!!" This adventure led me to one of the subway stations where I needed to take the subway to the next stop in order to pick up the bus that doesn't change it's number mid route. Note to self; wear thicker pants if you're going to be waiting for a train in the cold. The marble bench practically gave my bottom freezer burn! At the next stop, I had just missed the bus, so I had another outdoor wait, this time on a wrought iron bench. Hmmm... colder or warmer than the marble one? It's a TIE!!! The wind was whipping around and I was pretending to distract myself from a cold butt, frozen ears, and a runny nose by doing a sudoku puzzle. Might be good for the brain pathways and neurons, but every pathway I had was screaming GET ME ON A WARM BUS NOW!!!! Geez, it's amazing how long 20 minutes take when you're waiting for a bus in chilly weather! Yeah, yeah, I know it wasn't Michigan weather but it was about 39 and I was dressed for 65! I don't know where my internal heat went, but it must have been taking a coffee break someplace else.

Finally the bus arrived; I made it back to my street, walked the downhill (thank goodness) trek home. Still no car there. I guess I was kind of wishing it would magically be there. Up the flight of 14 stairs to my condo. Dumped the pack, threw off the shoes, and collapsed on the couch. Woke up 2 hours later. This no-car-take-bus-and-train routine is going to take some adjustment!

Here are my dear friends with their "new" car.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Write From The Soul 8

http://taralazar.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/piboidmowinner.jpgLook what I got for finishing in the PiBoIdMo month. My first real badge that I figured out how to place in the blog! (I can't help it, sometimes I am so techno-challenged that it's pitiful.)

I am looking forward to my visit with family during the holidays. We leave Boston for 4 days and go to the mountains of New Hampshire to stay in a great condo with picture windows looking out on the snowy mountains, a fireplace, and lots of down time to read and write. I don't have a laptop but I do have my writing notebooks and I don't mind writing longhand. Sometimes that makes me feel more connected to the writing- you know, being able to scratch through words you don't want, or draw an arrow from a paragraph to move it to another location. I'm starting a new middle grade novel and hope to make some real headway on it.

Next Tuesday I'll be flying to Boston so no Write From the Soul. If I can wrestle the laptop away from my nephew at the condo in NH, I'll post an update and maybe upload a few photos.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Visualeyes 8 and a half

As I work through my personal challenges of vision loss, I appreciate the support and encouragement I get from friends, family, blog followers, local RP chapter, and the online discussion group, RPList. But what is available to provide support, encouragement, and "community" for kids and teens with visual impairments? Not much that I can find on the big ol' Web. So I decided to start a blog for tweens and teens. It's called Help U C  [help you see] which reminded me of texting shorthand and should appeal to youth.

The format is a topic discussed or a question posed relating to dealing with vision challenges. As the moderator, I share how I relate to the topic/question, giving an example from my life. My hope is that tweens/teens (I'm aiming for ages 8-18) will feel comfortable and safe posting a comment and sharing about their own lives. For those still in the denial phase-still trying to quietly fit in and "act normal"- it's possible to comment or ask a question anonymously. I want kids and teens to find out that it really doesn't matter how old you are, all of us are in the same boat when it comes to coping and adapting. Our choices are different depending on our age and maturity, but teens can learn from kids as well as kids can learn from teens.

In setting up the blog, the teacher in me insisted I post some guidelines to follow, things like no name-calling, swearing, use of vulgar language, and showing respect for everyone. I think "feeding the teacher"  is as much as reason for developing this blog as filling a need for youth with vision issues. Last year, my inner teacher was sated by tutoring a 3rd grader at my former school in reading. I guess I didn't realize that I missed that mentor-mentee connection from teaching. The new tween-teen blog is a great way to fill that gap for me. I also think, as I move into mobility training, [yes, I AM going to do it! See previous blog for this topic] this will become a motivator for me. I can show Help U C followers that even adults get scared, even adults have to learn new things and it will hopefully help bond all of us together.

Remember my post on the word vigor? I am approaching this new venture with vigor!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Visualeyes 8

I went to have a low vision evaluation. For those unfamiliar with the term "low vision" it's used to refer to people who obviously have difficulty seeing but can possibly be assisted with magnifiers, special types of lens, or computer hardware or software. This evaluation is really to assess the functionality of one's eyes rather than acuity. My acuity is still quite good so I'm able to read with my glasses and only use a magnifier to read at night, when my eyes are tired and might strain to see small print.

The women I worked with were all kind, supportive, and eager to see what they could do to help. They showed me various magnifiers and we discussed assistive technology, such as Acrobat which uses a small mounted camera-like magnifier that can turn 360 degrees and can be used for: doing close-up work (like my jewelry making), putting on makeup (but who really wants to see all those lines on your face?), projecting the TV images close to you even when it's across the room, writing in a notebook or computer (so I can still write children's books). All I need is a spare $2400 to get one! Someone want to buy it for me for my birthday this summer?????? Yeah, just kidding.

We also discussed the need for mobility training. Sometimes it's referred to a "safety and travel" but it comes back to the same thing- using a white cane. Now you would think that anything would be preferable to smashing your shins and knees into concrete benches, wastebaskets, low-lying coffee tables, small children, or smacking your shoulder into columns, walls, and SUV side mirrors. I would think that too, except that it means using a white cane, the universal symbol for being blind. It's not quite as bad as a neon sign flashing" blind person comin' through", but recognizable none the less. As much as I know I'm visually impaired and may end up totally blind, I don't feel I'm there YET. So my hesitation is purely emotionally based. (Geez, I feel like a goober even saying that I'm not ready. Using a cane is so helpful, I'm told) But somewhere inside, I have a memory of watching people stare at a blind person with a cane, and the look of pity on their faces. And the people who step quickly out of the way  of someone with a cane as if blindness was contagious NOT because they are trying to get out of the way. Those are vivid images that are tough to overcome.

I need to say that being open with everyone I meet about my visual impairment is still new to me. It's only in the last 3 years (out of 32 years knowing about the condition) that I've openly talked about RP. And maybe my reluctance to have a cane is still part of trying to appear "normal"  or sighted to the world. You know, as I write these things, I almost want to bang my head against the wall for acting so silly. This is my opportunity to stand up and say: "I'm not going to let this RP rule my life. Watch and see all that I can do!" I spent 30 years trying to be a role model for children & help them learn that you can't let difficulties hold you back. That's exactly what I'm doing though.

Well, the car will go this weekend and while I'm starting a new life chapter, I might as well try the mobility training too. I have empathy for Sisyphus in Greek mythology, pushing that boulder uphill. I certainly can relate. Some days, though, it feels like I've got ankle weights on as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Write From the Soul 7

My day started waaaay too early . I got up, showered, dressed, out the door to go to a hair appointment. The day was gray, cold, and rainy so there was a feeling that it was the kind of day to stay at home and hibernate. I got to the shop and it hit; I don't think the appointment is today. Guess what? I was right!!! It's tomorrow morning! I've been a step behind all day.

Then tonight I got an email from a friend titled "Randon Thoughts." I just howled as I read them because I have thought these same things...really! Enjoy some humor.

Random Thoughts for the Day:

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately
clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you
realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I
was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm
pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how
the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I
don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

"Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this
-- ever. 

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks
me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I
swear I did not make any changes to.

I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not
to answer when they call.

15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?
Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and
goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone
and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not
seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

I think the freezer deserves a light as well..

Monday, December 7, 2009

Write From the Soul 6 and a half

Bloggers are frequently sending "awards" to each other- for being hysterical, helpful, true blue, honest- and these are often accompanied with questions to answer. I was sent one for being a loyal follower of someone's blog so now I feel like I'm part of the blogger club :-) As soon as I can figure out how to get the blasted picture to appear on my page, I'll add it in here! Then I can share it with someone else. Meanwhile, here are the questions with my answers.

1. Where is your cell phone? sitting on the table in the living room
2. Your hair? perm-less until tomorrow- right now it's scary looking!
3. Your mother? giving
4. Your father? funny, loved by all, unfortunately passed on
5. Your favorite food? pizza
6. Your dream last night? usually they are bizarre but I can't remember one from last night
7. Your favorite drink? beer-imports, non-alcoholic-water

8. Your dream/goal? to get a literary agent
9. What room are you in? guest bedroom where the 'puter is located
10. Your hobby? designing/making jewelry
11. Your fear? going completely blind
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? I want to be right here, well not still in this room!

13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren't? skinny, and mean-spirited
15. Muffins? blueberry, with fresh berries
16. Wish list item? JAWS assistive technology software, oh and a laptop!
17. Where did you grow up? Detroit, Michigan
18. Last thing you did? eat breakfast
19. What are you wearing? jammies(okay, I'm being lazy today)

20. Your TV? frequently "background noise"- that happens when you live alone!
21. Your pets? none, I'm waiting until I need a guide dog
22. Friends? they are the best and extremely important to me (extended family really)
23. Your life? it may not be perfect, but it's mine and I'm keeping it thank you
24. Your mood? content
25. Missing someone? friends who don't live in the same area
26. Vehicle? Corolla until 12/13/09, then no car
27. Something you're not wearing? shoes, coat, hat, jewelry- is that enough?
28. Your favorite store? toss-up between bookstore and bead store where I buy supplies
29. Your favorite color? purple
30. When was the last time you laughed? last night
31. Last time you cried? about a week ago
32. Your best friend? don't have just one, but first would be my sister who is fiercely loyal
33. One place that I go to over and over? bookstore instead of the library, also to the beach
34. One person who emails me regularly? Laura, and Lois
35. Favorite place to eat? Sweet Tomatoes- love salad bars, especially when I didn't have to cut up the salad!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Visualeyes 7

There are 10 days left. This is a deadline I could live without. In 10 days, my sweet, white Corolla will belong to someone else. Hey! I see you out there rolling your eyes like this is no big deal.  And truthfully, I thought I had "conquered" this and moved past it. Until yesterday....

Yesterday I took the baby in for her last "checkup", commonly called the 70,000 mile checkup. (Well actually they did the 80,000 mile checkup because it checks more things-not to mention costs more.) Since I'm selling my car to friends, I wanted to be sure it was in good shape. Nothing puts a major chasm in a friendship faster than a car that expires suddenly on the highway! I wanted all the belts, fluids,  doodahs and thing-a-ma-bobs checked (as you can see I have a grasp of the technical aspects of cars), and don't forget the tires. Turns out the serpentine belt had cracks (there goes $150) and needed to be replaced. One of the tires- still under warranty- had a nail in it and had to be replaced (of course I had to pay for the labor of putting the new one on, geez), and the windshield wipers were getting floppy and needed to be replaced. With replacement of the oil, balancing and rotating the tires, a suggested, but declined, alignment and $300, I got my baby back. (See it cost just like a checkup at the doctor!) There were also notes to flush the brake fluid line and something else I've blanked out. A call to my friends reassured me that they would take care of the alignment, flushing and the whatever.

So my conscience is clear. I'm handing over a car in good shape. But the reality has finally sunk in that in 10 days I will be using the bus and subway as my  mode of transportation  FOREVER. Sure I have some wonderful friends who offer rides. And there are rides to be had for money as well. It's just the finality in that word forever. Knowing that I will never go from point A to point B on my own again, unless it's by walking, comes with some sadness. Yes, I know the world will be a safer place without me behind the wheel of an automobile, but this is not about knowing, this is about feeling. And it just feels sad. I'm not angry anymore, just melancholy.

I know this will pass and I'll get to a place where I can relish and appreciate the challenge of planning my day around a timetable of buses and trains and walking segments. (Hmmmm, sounds kind of similar to planning a day of teaching around lunch, Music, recess, and bus schedule.) But right now, it just feels sad. It's like having a good friend who's lived in your town for years and suddenly tells you she's moving out of town in a month. Once you get over the shock of it, you try to act as if everything is the same; doing the same things together, spending time together. Until you get to the last week.  Visits become more poignant, a voice in your head says, "this is the last time you'll do blah-blah together" and you never want it to end but know that it must. And you start to feel sad, even though you know you'll see each other again. It's adjusting to a different normal, a new normal. You will because you have to.

I will adjust to being a non-driver because I have to. But for now, it's just sad and I am dealing with that sadness respectfully and with dignity....and kleenex!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Write From The Soul 6

I've been writing down ideas for books as they pop into my gray matter, but I haven't really had a block of time to sit down and actually write in about two weeks. And I've made a discovery.....I've missed writing! Now to those of you who are published authors, long time authors, or individuals who knew from a young age that you always wanted to be a writer the previous statement sounds absurd and you're saying: yeah, so? What's your point? My point is I'm surprised  and  thrilled  that I have made such a connection to writing. I'm the one who hated to write papers in school. I'd read anything just don't make me write about it. Then I turned into the person who wrote the best consumer letters to store managers or complaint letters to companies and airline customer service departments. And I still didn't like writing. Then I wanted to get back to my dream of writing children's books (of course when that dream started, I naively thought picture books would be a breeze to write-HA!). Now I discover that I enjoy writing, especially fiction. Oh, and now I know that writing children's books is definitely N-O-T a breeze!

I've noticed in the many blogs I've been reading, that other authors like to talk about enjoying writing too. In many "blog tours" (for the uninitiated that's cyberspeak for a printed interview with Q and A on someone's web site or blog), authors often share that they always were a writer, or that they came to writing later in life. Then of course, there's a shameless plug for their latest book! It looks like fun to me but as I haven't published yet, I guess I'm not ready to do a blog tour. So I decided to start off with an occasional interview of my own. In reading Jon Skovron's blog, http://jonnyskov.com/blog  I noticed he asks authors the same 3 questions, but nowhere had he answered those questions himself. A great way to begin my interviews, so I cajoled him into giving me the "exclusive" on his three answers  with the promise of inclusion in today's blog post. Thanks Jon! Here they are:

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part of writing is working on the first few chapters, when it's all fresh and new and I'm totally making it up as I go along, as well as the last few chapters when I know exactly what I'm doing and how it's all going to happen.
My least favorite part is writing that squishy middle bit where I actually have to figure out what the heck I'm doing.
What writing “gear” do you like (could be anything from your favorite tool to your favorite tchotchke).
I work on a Macbook Pro, usually on the couch with a little IKEA laptop tray and a coonhound curled up next to me. My favorite tchotchke on my desk (when I work at it) is a little plastic Riddler figurine in the pose of Rodin's The Thinker. I've had it since I was 18. It reminds me both to keep working hard and to not take myself so seriously.
Preference: Zombie, Pirate, Robot, or Ninja…you must chose one.
This is really is the question of the age:
Zombie = Culture
Pirate = Individualism
Robot = Progress
Ninja = Discipline

Each has strengths and weaknesses. The zombie offers community and solidarity (albeit stinky and gross). The Pirate offers freedom, although sometimes at the expense of others. Robot offers expanding possibilities and technological advancement, though offers no morality to contain it. Ninja offers skill and loyalty, but is stuck in traditionalism.
So which would I choose? Why, a zombie-infected ninja pirate cyborg, of course!

And now for the shameless plug of his latest YA book:
STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron, published by Amulet Books

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Visualeyes and write From the Soul

Okay, I'm a slacker this week. But in all fairness, my mom is in from out of town and we have plans to get together with friends each day of the week. (To eat a meal, of course!)
I'm officially declaring this Thanksgiving week as blog-less. I'll be back on schedule next week. Happy holiday to all. I'm thankful for your interest, support, and following!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Visualeyes 6

It will be hard to top my last post! I just loved all those reasons to be happy without a car :-) Although I suspect the day the car gets sold and goes away permanently(gulp) will be an emotional day, I am trying to embrace this new phase with "vigor." The dictionary gives the following definitions for vigor:
1. Physical or mental strength, energy, or force.
2. The capacity for natural growth and survival
3. Strong feeling; enthusiasm or intensity.
4. Legal effectiveness or validity.
I think I've really picked the exact word for my actions. I'm heading to the mass transit office (not right this second, but next week on Monday) to obtain a monthly pass for those with disabilities. While I don't classify myself as "disabled," legally I am, so I'm taking advantage of the 40% savings. Who wouldn't prefer to pay 90 cents instead of $2.00 for a bus/train ride? A monthly, unlimited rides bus pass is usually $60, but now I can get 40% off that. (You do the math, percentages make me goofy.) There's definitions #1 and 4 in place.
As for #3, well, I'm taking on the city of Dunwoody. On their web site, there's a place to suggest city repairs. The sidewalk between my condo and the the street I must walk on in order to get the bus has many cracked sections and parts where the sidewalk has dropped lower. Twice I have twisted my ankle in walking over this area. So I've put in a repair ticket today suggesting it needs to be fixed soon. The ticket has a place to list the level of importance for the repair- low, medium, high, critical. I started out with high trying to be fair to all the other tickets I assumed were out there. But by the time I finished writing the description and mentioned that someone I knew HAD fallen there and broke an ankle, plus the fact that when I begin to use a white cane, the tip can get caught resulting in falling, I decided the need was definitely critical. Well it is to me!!! So we'll see if the city follows through on this issue. They don't know me yet, but I have a tendency to be persistent about things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah, I hear some of you out snickering and saying "you mean obsessive, don't you?" You use your words and I'll use mine. OK? Fine.

Definition #2 is the most important of the four to me. I am all about survival and for me, survival means I need to grow. This journey can be frustrating and painful and makes you want to scream sometimes. But in the end, I either grow and make the necessary changes and adapt, or just become a hermit and stay in my jammies all day, everyday. While staying in your jammies doesn't sound so bad, I'm the kind of person who needs to be out doing SOMETHING every day. I don't have to go shopping, but I do need to go somewhere, even if it's just for a walk. I get "cabin fever" in record-setting time. So the second definition of vigor is the one I like the best. Onward blind voyagers with vigor!!!!  Okay, I took literary license there, I'm not blind yet but would it has sounded as good if I'd said" onward voyagers with limited vision, with vigor"????? I don't think so.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Visualeyes 5

To make myself feel better about giving up the car I'm making a list of the positive side of this decision. Many thanks to my creative friends, family, and bloggers who answered my call for help finding the perfect ideas..  :-) I'm so thrilled with these, I have to publish it before Friday!!!

 25  Reasons to be Positive About Being Car-less

1)   I can talk on my cell phone in a moving car without worrying that I might hit someone or something.
2)  I can check out the neighborhood, the  colorful leaves, look at the accident I just passed, check out a magazine, or actually read a complete road sign.
3)  I have unfettered access to someone's car radio. (as the passenger, you see)
4)  I don't have to worry about spilling hot coffee all over my clear shirt or in my lap because the guy in front of me stopped suddenly. (This is because I can see that the guy is stopping and warn the driver which means I'm talking, not drinking!)
5)  I can lean my seat back as far as I want, even take a short nap, since I don't have to worry about looking out the rear view and side mirrors.
6)  OK, the obvious one about saving money on gas and not getting ticked off every time the price goes up.
7)  Also I can reduce my carbon footprint (yeah, yeah, that's me the eco-friendly kid.)
8)  The other obvious one is not having to pay the auto insurance premiums.
9)  Then there's no car maintenance to worry about, or for that matter trying to figure out what the service rep means when he explains why the bill is so costly.
10) How about not having to wait at the DMV or Tax Commissioners office to ask questions that they can't or won't answer only to be told I don't have the correct form and need to come back with it!
11) No more ad valorem tax to pay on the car or emissions test to do.
12) A chance to clean up my language because I won't be swearing at rude, crazy or stupid drivers! (Yeah, this one still needs work.)
13) I am a supporter of the community as I use mass transit. (I sound so wonderful.)
14) Buses and trains will probably provide a wealth of interesting people for blog posts and/or book characters.
15) I won't have to worry about being carjacked.
16) I can learn to appreciate birds because they will no longer be pooping on my hood or windshield!
17) No more concern over assisting European or Middle Eastern economies rather than the US or A.
18) All the walking I am doing will improve my fitness. (I guess I could learn to enjoy being buff, it certainly would be different!)
19) I can indulge in favorite foods without guilt due to an exercise induced higher metabolism. (Okay, so maybe not pizza and chocolate EVERY day.)
20) I will have more "direct face time" with friends since my schedule will now coincide with their schedule for shopping.
21)  No more grumbling over scraping car windows in winter due to snow or ice. (Yeah, I know that's not a huge issue in Atlanta but I won't have to deal with it the once a winter it happens!)
22) Never have to change another flat tire again. Come to think of it, I never HAVE changed a tire in the 40+ years I've been driving cars.
23) I had 3 friends suggest that I can now put on make-up without worrying about an accident. Great idea but since I usually don't wear much make-up, which one of you wants to teach me how to apply it correctly????
24) I will no longer have to worry about cats and dogs peeing on my tires to mark their territory.
25) I will no longer have to listen to that annoying recording at the grocery store gas pumps trying to sell me something.

Hey, maybe being car-less isn't such a bad idea after all! I think I'm starting to feel better about this. :-) If you have any other great reasons it's good to be car-less, send them to me in a comment!

Write from the Soul 5

I am totally blank on what to write tonight. I have spent much of last week and will spend much of this week going to author presentations at the Marcus Jewish Community Center for their 18th annual Book Festival. So far I've heard Bruce Feiler, Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenbery, Susie Essman, A J Jacobs, Maggie Anton, Dara Horn, S J Rozan, Daniel Levin, and Dan Senor. Still to come are Bob Morris and Carol Leifer, Ernest Adams, Sara Houghteling, and possibly Jeffrey Zaslow. Hearing all that talent speak doesn't leave much time for one's writing. Besides, after hearing them, you want to read their books. But I can't read 8 books at once!

So I bid you adieu, I'll think writing next Tuesday before my brain becomes addled with Thanksgiving food:-)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Visualeyes 4

I've just about hit the "point of no return."  Today I received in the mail 3 copies of a letter from my eye doc that clearly states I am classified as "legally blind." There's no denying it now. There's no way to stretch the driving time longer. The path is clear. Today, my heart feels heavy. [Oh come on, snap out of it, Gail!!!]  Bus riding and sitting in the passenger seat is my destiny :-)

I do feel like I'm starting to move forward in this grieving/healing process. I've resigned myself to getting rid of the car. For those of you who have read my previous posts, I discussed the situation with my sister and we agreed that selling the car would work best for me and allow me to move on sooner to the new normal. As of Saturday, Dec.12th (?) I will be officially carless, A dear friend is buying the car so I know it will have a "good home," plus I can reconnect when I go to visit them.

The real work begins on Sunday the 13th. Buses will be fine during the week because they run frequently. The bigger issue will be weekends when routes tend to be once per hour and some become nonexistent. I think that will be the time to ask friends for rides or perhaps use taxis. I still need to work on feeling comfortable asking people for help. I'm a bit tentative on that since I've usually been the one doing the helping.  It's a slippery slope trying to maintain independence and feel self-reliant while knowing you are dependent on others, at least occasionally fortransportation.

Last night I heard a wonderful author, Bruce Feiler, speak. He concluded his book talk by sharing his recent difficulties with cancer of the leg (believed to have resulted from a fall as a child). Despite the invasive surgery, the 2 rounds of chemo, and the struggles in rehabbing, his attitude is positive and hopeful. He stated that he believed it was important to have a sense of community around you during difficult or tragic times. I so agree! My journey of facing the challenges of losing sight  would be unbearable without the support of family and friends. And believe it or not, having readers of this blog helps too. By writing about the tough moments, the triumphant moments, the contemplative moments, it leaves me feeling that someone might relate to them or have an "Aha moment" from something I've said and I could prevent a moment of sadness, or doubt, or worry for someone else. That's part of community as well. Helping each other out. Knowing that when we are weak, there's someone else around to be strong for us and provide support. I'll keep writing and I hope you'll keep reading. Your support means everything!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Write From the Soul 4

In the pursuit to become a better writer, learn about marketing myself and my books, and to actually get published I'm spending more time on the computer than I ever imagined! Sometimes I draft my story right on the computer, other times I'm writing in my handy black-and-white speckled composition notebook (spiral notebooks are no good because the pages come out too easily). That's good for at least a couple hours. Next there is the blog reading. I have about 10 blogs I follow and there's a gazillion more I probably should read. Blogs are sneaky, though. Just as you think you've finished one, you notice a link to something or someone you don't know about and of course, you have to click on it to be sure you aren't missing something important. I feel so much like a little kid when I'm doing that. You know, kids always want more, they always think the next thing is better, and they don't want others to know about stuff they don't know. That's me on blogs and authors' web sites, and publishers' sites too.

Speaking of marketing oneself.... In one of my posts I mentioned Shelli Johannes- Wells and her blog "Market My Words." I decided to arrange an appointment with her. Our phone meeting will be this week and I'm making a list of questions to ask. Talk about feeling inept. I'm not even sure what questions to ask! It reminds me of some of the kids I used to teach. I'd explain some skill, give examples, and ask if anyone had questions. Sometimes I just got blank stares back. I knew what would happen. As soon as I asked them to put that skill into practice, one at a time, 4 or 5 kids would quietly come up and say "I don't get it!" At first I wondered why they hadn't raised their hands to ask a question during the lesson but I realized either A) they were embarrassed to admit in front of others a lack of comprehension or B) the lack of comprehension was so complete that they didn't know how to tell me what they didn't get! I'm feeling kind of like choice B. The good news is we have a 2 part meeting planned so I can ask the few questions I have, try out whatever she suggests, and hopefully, come back with the questions I really need answers to because the understanding finally has sunk in.

Silly me; when I set out to be a published writer, I thought you write it, you share it, you revise it, you send it, it gets published. Right? Not even close. Sure those are all part of writing (except maybe getting published because not everyone who writes does get published) but there's sooooooo much more. Like reading blogs, and developing a web site, and having a social media presence, and blogging yourself, and trying to create a following, and marketing yourself and your books. It's quite the learning curve for me. It's not surprising to feel like I take one step forward and two steps back. Maybe more like trying to walk back up the down escalator; it's quite a struggle but it actually can be done with perseverance and some quick stepping. I think I'd better put on my running shoes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Visualeyes 3

This week I was determined to avoid the car temptation and use the bus. I decided to try a trip to a neighborhood shopping center with Borders, Ulta, and WalMart. Here's the process: look up the bus  timetable, check,compare it to the second bus timetable that you also have to take, check, go back to the first timetable to be sure you're reading the Monday-Friday schedule, not the Saturday or Sunday timetable (which are both different from the rest of the week), check. Be sure the backpack has everything you need- wallet, keys, visor for walking in the sun, phone, bus schedules, water to drink, some almonds in case you miss meal time so the blood sugar doesn't get wacky, kleenex, hand sanitizer, a soduko book to keep from getting bored while waiting for the bus (which doesn't always show up at the time listed on the schedule), and of course, enough room to carry whatever you buy on your shopping adventure. "Shopping adventure"- see I'm trying to make it sound positive and fun. (Not fooling myself yet!) Now comes the 10 minute walk, all uphill, to get to the bus stop then stand around for 20 minutes until the bus shows up. Okay, I got the right bus and when I got on, I clarified where I picked up the next bus. Turns out when the 132 reaches the "end of its route," it just turns into the 150 bus. So why don't they just call it the 150 bus the whole time???? Okay, calm down, public transit isn't always handled efficiently.

I get to the shopping center, wait 10 minutes for the light to change on the major busy street in order to really get to the shopping center. Walk, walk, walk with 5-6 pound backpack through the stores, constantly taking the pack off (so I don't knock things off shelves) and back on between stores. Buy shampoo and conditioner + the free gift they threw in, now the pack is 7-8 pounds. Off to WalMart (whew, the pack can go in the cart) and buy several things, pack is up to 10 pounds now! The day started out coolish but the temp warmed up so the sweatshirt has to go in the pack too. Approaching 12 pounds and don't kid yourself,  just because you're drinking that water you brought along, the pack is NOT getting lighter!

As I leave the WalMart, I figured I better check the timetable to see when the bus will arrive, because of course, I still have to locate the bus stop. That's what happens every blessed time you go someplace new on the bus, you have to find a new stop. Timetable says the bus arrives at 2:05 and the watch said it's 1:40. So I start fast-walking across the vast parking lot to get back to the major street. Of course the path I take is all uphill and the pack now weighs double what it weighed when I left home! Made it to the bus stop and noticed there were 2 other paths, on flat parking lot, that I could have taken and then just climbed 8 or 9 stairs to land right next to the stop. (I'll know the next time!) Pull out the bus schedule, just to be sure ( a tad compulsive still) and lo and behold, I had checked the Sunday schedule and the correct time for the bus to stop was an additional 30 minutes! Wait, wait, wait... and I'm thinking of all the things I could have done if I only had taken the car!!!! Heavy sigh.....

Catch the bus, do the route in reverse, locate my stop in time, pull the cord, smile at the driver and thank him and then have the 10 minute walk back home, with the doubled weight pack. BUT, it's now downhill!!!! As I'm rounding the corner to walk into my condo complex, I called my sister. I told her I was proud of myself for accomplishing the day's trek but TOTALLY exhausted. My ever-positive psychologist sister  tells me, "Just think how fit you're going to get, and just think how 'green' you're becoming by decreasing your carbon footprint!" I replied,: "And you think either of those  things compensate for having to give up driving??? I don't think so!" At this point she suggested I might consider an attitude adjustment. I replied that I was doing what I had to do but I hated it and was going kicking and screaming all the way. This is still new to me and obviously, I'm still cranky about it. But she's right, an attitude adjustment might help. My thoughts on that... hell no! Not ready for that yet. I'm not done being mad about this. Maybe next week.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Write From the Soul 3

November is known for several things: Thanksgiving, of course, the Michigan vs. Ohio State football game (hey, it's important too!), sweeps week on television programs, and NaNoWriMo. No, I'm not speaking alien, it's an abbreviated form of National Novel Writing Month. Writers who are brave and love a challenge, sign up to write a first draft of a novel in 30 days. The goal is to write about 1,000 words per day. For writers of adult fiction or young adult (teen) fiction, 30,000 words is a great goal. However, if you write picture books like me, that goal can be daunting. Picture books usually have 500-1,000 words total. I suppose it could be changed to "write a picture book a day" but that feels like the scene from the classic "I Love Lucy" where she's checking the candies on the conveyor belt. As the conveyor speeds up and more come along, she has to miss some, hide them in her dress, eat a bunch- basically cut corners and do a crappy job. That's what would happen if I tried to write a book a day! And I wouldn't even get chocolate. :-(  I did find a great alternative though. Tara Lazar's blog "Writing For Kids (While Raising Them)" suggested a kid lit-friendly idea. Each day in November, write down an idea for a picture book. It doesn't have to be outlined (or webbed as we used to teach kids in elementary school), just the briefest of info,  maybe setting, character names or even a question like "what would happen if___________ did ________ instead of its usual ______?" At the end of the month, you have a collection of 30 ideas. Guess that eliminates the procrastination ploy of saying you don't know what to write about! So I have joined the ranks of writers participating in PiBoIdMo- Picture Book Idea Month. Three days down, three ideas committed to paper. I wonder who else is working on this project?

FYI- November 7th is Independent Book Store Day. In the age of mega bookstores, e-books galore and now WalMart and Target trying to cut prices on books to beat out the mega stores, the solitary independent bookseller can really struggle to stay in business. Here's your chance to help. On Saturday the 7th, go to an indie book store and buy a book, it's that simple. There's at least one in your area. I can name 3 in the Atlanta area (Little Shop of Stories in Decatur is my favorite). Those of us who are aspiring authors know we have a better chance of sales, signings, and fan bases through the independent stores when we are starting out. That means those stores need to stick around until we get publishers. Help us out folks. Frequent the indies, especially on November 7th. Thanks!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Visualeyes 2

If you had the choice between pouring over a bus schedule for departure times to coordinate your errands for the day or jumping into a car and driving to do the errands, which would you pick? That's a no-brainer, right? I've got to say that even though I know I need to perfect my bus/train skills, I still find myself jumping into the car. There's a voice in my head that says, "Hey what are you doing? You shouldn't be driving!" but another voice, the one that likes to rationalize things and make excuses for why it's okay to do something, says: "But you can't carry this furniture and all this other stuff to Goodwill by going on the bus. So just make this quick trip, using side streets, not the expressway, and it will be alright." It makes sense to me. Yeah, right.

The problem is I could rationalize just about anything as a way to use the car because letting go of it is really hard. Harder than I imagined and I was imagining it to be pretty awful. I realized I wasn't handling this transition well after I bought 2 bags of Halloween candy [no kids in my complex and never had a treater in 15 years living here] and ate it all.  Not in one day of course, but it sure didn't help the blood sugar any.)  Hmmm... sounds like a touch of depression to me. Funny how that can creep up on you.

So what should I do about this? I can't change the fact that the driving needs to stop. But I can change the temptation of having the car calling to me. I have to get rid of my car. Geez, the idea of that makes me shudder yet I know myself well enough that eliminating temptation isn't a gradual thing. I just have to make a complete break. Oh-oh, there goes that voice in my head pleading, "No, you haven't been without a car of your own for over 30 years!" [Now before you start calculating and thinking I can't add correctly you should know that I got my first car at age 21.]  I have a nephew going off to college next year and I thought I could give him my car. My sister and I planned to drive the car up to Massachusetts in June when her kids were out of school. That means the temptation sits in front of me for 8 months. I now know that I can't face it that long. Since my sister can't come get the car now and there is always the possibility of driving through snow once you pass October and head to the North, I started exploring auto carriers. That's worth a blog post of its own! Then to add temptation of a different sort, a friend told me that she and her husband would like to buy my car because it is newerthan hers and has less miles. That would solve the problem of transporting the car and get it out of my sight. But I did offer to family first. A dilemma that I have to mull over. Care to share your thoughts with me on what you would do?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Write From the Soul 2

Writing, by its nature, is a solitary endeavor. Yes, we share our words with others, either for critiquing purposes or to tell them a story, but the bottom line is we tend to write in isolation. I don't know about you but for me, too much of that isolation leaves me uncertain sometimes, about the quality of my work. That's why being in several writing groups is important to me. First, I have my local writers' group. We are all very different people and yet those differences are exactly what make us work well together. We all start from a unique mind set and our perspective shapes our view of each others' stories. So differences = wonderful creative insight. My other writers' group has even more diversity. We live in all over the world. This, obviously, is an online group. The group ranges from picture books authors to young adult/teen authors, from college students to those with families/kids and to retirees. I'm finding that our cultural differences shape our perspectives on writing as well. Mostly, I find that all the members in both groups become a fabulous support network; encouraging more and better writing, celebrating achievements large and small, and being an extended family of sorts, to help face life's challenges. (And my life tends to be full of challenges so I'll take all the support I can get!)

In keeping with the theme of "support networks" I'd like to give a few thank you shout outs. Thank you to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators http://www.scbwi.org/ or "Skib-wee" as I call it. It's the friendliest, most giving organization and group of colleagues one could ever have. The web site offers a wealth of information and  is a must-know-about for children book authors. Thanks also go to the regional chapter of SCBWI called "Southern Breeze" spearheaded by Donna Bowman and Jo Kittinger. Sometimes local chapters of an organization pale in comparison. Not Southern Breeze! Each state is divided into sections with local people to contact about events, meetings etc. Emails are always answered promptly and the information is accurate. It's like having a human search engine at your fingertips! So thank you also to the local contact people who help keep us informed. If you live in GA, MS, AL check out their site http://www.southern-breeze.org/
The last part of the support network has to be the many fantastic blogs that are available for all to read. I can't even begin to tell you all the tips and "how-tos" I've picked up from bloggers. My favorite to date is Shelli Johannes-Wells and "Market My Words" at http://www.faeriality.blogspot.com/. Shelli is full of personality and shares great marketing ideas. (For those of us who find marketing has a B-I-G learning curve, Shelli's advice is unparalleled.) Can you tell I'm a fan! Whatever your interest, there's at least one blog out there you can read. Go find it and enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Visualeyes 1

This week has been challenging yet successful. I ventured out on the MARTA bus and train- with an encouraging friend- to see if I could make it to several doctors' offices all located in the same medical center. Amazingly I did!. The only down side was the amount of time it took. If I drove there, it would take 15-20 mins. Between waiting for buses, then the train, walking from the train station over to the actual building...90 mins. It was a smack-you-in-the-face reminder that going places will probably require 3x the amount of time. [heavy sigh...] I've always been a multitasker. Well you had to be when you taught 25-30 young children.And it wasn't uncommon for me to plan out 6 errands in one trip and then remember 2 more that could be added on. That time is done. While my planning skills will still be useful, they will now spread the activities over days because there's just not enough daylight hours this time of year for me to pack in the errands and have to wait for buses or trains.

I should be glad I don't have to rush around anymore. After all, I AM retired. Nah. The reality is that I'm not that former Type A personality because I can't be, not because I chose to be. I want to open the window and scream "It's not fair! I don't want to give up my independence!" (I know, shades of the movie Network.) But who said life is fair? And for that matter, who said I had to give up my independence? Yes, I can no longer be SPONTANEOUSLY independent; now I have to plan my activities. But if I'm still designing and selling my jewelry, still doing my grocery shopping, still going to work out, still writing my books, still meeting friends for lunch or dinner, am I any less independent? Hell no!! So the trick is to change my mind set, to accept that planned independence is as good as spontaneous independence. Yeah, that's a work in progress. But being the stubborn woman that I am, I'll get there. (Sooner rather than later, I hope!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Write From the Soul 1

Okay, so I'm a day late for my Tuesday post!
Do you ever have those days when you have several story ideas percolating at once but you don't know which one to work on first? If you try to work a little bit on each one, there's no cohesiveness and you, well I, feel scattered. But choosing just one to work on feels like picking one of your children to get all  the attention. So unfair! As a result, none of the stories get your full attention. What a waste :-) So there you have the reason I missed my Tuesday post date; all the "story children" were vying for my attention, I was trying to accommodate them all, and then it was Wednesday! I think I'll just throw their working titles in a hat and pick one. Anyone have a better idea?