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, 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!