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Friday, January 22, 2016

Is it the temp or is it MS?

So, here I sit, awaiting the storm of the year with 7.5 million other Americans. And.And it's definitely coming. I witnessed the first snow flake only minutes ago. It was deceptive, though. Just one little, delicate, angelic flotation free-falling from the sky. So innocent, so representative of all those anticipated snow days from my youth: the sled riding parties and bonfires; hot cocoa a freshly baked cookies afterwards; the nights when winds knocked out our power and my family snuggled together around the gas oven to keep warm; the endless hours of card games...
Those were the good ol' days.
I love winter. I love snow.  Until this year, I thought winter was my friend and that the heat aggravated the MonSter that roars within me. I am beginning the think I as wrong.  Anyone afflicted with a drop foot know the frustration of trying to keep up with the rest of the walking world. Normally my own condition improves in cooler climates. This winter, not so. The simplest journey has become quite taxing this winter. Is it the temperature or is it the relapsing side of my relapsing/remitting MS?
That is, of course, the most exasperating aspect of this disease. It always poses an unanswerable question. No matter the level of medical expertise a neurologist posses, these questions will not be answered. Because no matter the extent of study, there is always another question of challenge. The more I read about MS, the more I realize that NO ONE knows.
So, with this intolerance to my preferred cooler temperatures, does this mean that this summer may be a beach summer for me? Will I be able to bathe in the sun and frolic on the beach (hardly) of the Atlantic? Will I participate in the many activities at my summer camp that I have eliminated in recent years? Will I be able to sit on the river bank and fish?
What's the deal, MS? I'm running out of seasons.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I love surprises!

I just love a surprise. Especially when it is really, truly an out-of-the-blue, blow your mind, unexpected surprise. Look closely at the (revised) cover of my book. I am a London Book Festival honorable mention. Considering I didn't even know my book was entered in this prestigious event AND that London is one of my favorite travel memories, the news of this award is absolutely an out-of-the-blue, blow your mind, unexpected surprise. The skeptic might say, but it is only an honorable mention but my half-full glass of water attitude argues with IT IS AN INTERNATIONAL HONORABLE MENTION!

And so, my week of surprises begins. Yesterday I spent two hours at the gym with my mother. It was awesome and we are going back today. As part of my retirement plan, I have been anxious to join our area Health Plex Fitness Center. Insurance doesn't cover membership, though, and my retirement budget will not support such a frivolous expense. Yep, physical fitness is not considered frivolous. Oh, well...Fortunately my husband is clueless when it comes to gift giving and at the mention of a possible gym membership he jumped right on that very frivolous expense. Lucky me, lucky Mom. (She needed an exercise partner.) Not only was the gift a surprise, the fact that I can actually do the required activities is an added bonus.

Surprise #3: The weather has finally decided to behave in winter-like fashion. This morning I awoke to a temperature of 14 degrees. The only complaint I have about that is that there is no accompanying snow. I LOVE snow and my son, of course, loves a good snow day. This year, though, students in our county are looking forward to a snow-less school year in hopes of beginning summer vacation at the end of May as a reward for no school cancellations. Whatever...I am retired, so every day is a vacation day for me! (Sorry to rub that particular detail in your face.) Back to the purpose of this paragraph, winter is here and evident in the mercury. Maybe we will see some snow after all...next month.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016!

It's that time again...resolution rewind. 
I did fairly well with my list of soulful "to do's" last year. Learning from past resolution attempts, my 2015 list was small and composed of items that spoke close to my heart.
I finished two manuscripts and published one with a publishing house!

I remodeled my bathroom...mostly. The work left to be done requires my husband's assistance. We'll see when THAT happens:)

Now it is time to do it all over again. And I am on it!

As part of my New Year's Eve  celebration, I continued editing my latest writing endeavor: Bombs Bursting in Air. This task will be completed this afternoon. I was forced to take a break when I got too emotional to objectively read my own work. As I told my mother during our Happy New Year phone call, this is good. This story is REALLY good. I am actually impressed with myself, for the first time ever. So, I am not going to rush through the last 50 pages. 

In fact, I am ready to share chapter one with anyone who is interested in reading it. I will publish it at the end of this post. I have to comment on my resolutions for 2016. Here goes. You can hold me accountable.

1. Write every day.
2. Try to do more promoting for I Have MS. What's Your Super Power? available at HeadlineBooks.com, amazon.com, Barnesand Noble.com
3. Go to the gym 3 times a week. My husband gave me a membership to Health Plex an I am SO EXCITED.
4. Improve my balance and  walking with exercise. At Health Plex. Because my husband gave me a membership. Did I mention how excited I am?
5. Pay off my publishing debt so I can work on publishing my new one.
6. Tune the uke and reteach myself everything I learned the last time I was serious about learning to play.
7. Review more books.

Okay, so that appears to be a workable list of self-promises. I believe that everything is doable, even the ukulele obligation.

I really enjoy having a schedule, a focus, a feeling of purpose and the resulting accomplishment in my day. I believe this will serve me well. 

And here is that chapter. Enjoy. React. Respond.



BOMBS BURSTING IN AIR

CHAPTER ONE: Theater Pee
If one more bomb sounds, I thought, my bladder is going to burst.
“Dad!” Even in my stage whisper, I heard my voice carry throughout the cinema. Dad was engrossed in the action on the screen and obviously mistook my plea as part of the movie script. “Dad, I have to go!”

“Shh!” The hisses from the seats behind us sounded more annoyed than angry, but I still felt guilty. No one liked to waste good money on their entertainment to be interrupted by someone who couldn’t keep their mouth shut and their bladder under control during a public movie.


“You cannot mean it, Meri! You’ll miss the best part. Let me check Theatre Pee. Can you hold it for a second or two?” Dad quickly tuned into his new phone app that was supposed to advise movie viewers of the appropriate time to leave the viewing area. Mom and I liked to tease him about his obsession with his smart phone and he was probably very excited to try out this new function.

“I can’t wait, Dad. Just let me know what I missed.”

“Next time don’t down an entire 18 ounce Pepsi before the opening credits are over,” Dad’s admonishing words were accompanied with a chorus of annoyed shushes and disgruntled noises as I climbed over the viewers in an attempt to quietly reach the theatre aisle.

Another loud cinematic explosion made me nearly leap over the last person in the row.  I sincerely began to doubt if I would make it to the restroom in time to save myself another reason for embarrassment. I silently asked myself one more time why I had agreed to come to the matinee with Dad today instead of hanging out at the mall with my friends. Since his retirement from the military, he had become even more obsessed with war movies and the need to share these with his family. After three tours in the Middle East, you would think he had enough of war.
 I like hanging out with Dad, but we were going to have to have a conversation about his choice of appropriate entertainment for his teenage daughter. Mom always got out of these outings on the premise of staying home with my baby brother. Since I was their prime babysitter, she knew what my options were. I liked being the big sister, don’t get me wrong. Baby Alexander is cute, cute, cute; diaper duty is, a BIG drawback, though. Besides, the alternative would have been to watch Holly and Janie try on countless dresses for the upcoming spring dance for which I had no date and was not planning to go.
“I am absolutely pathetic. My life is pathetic. My Saturday is pathetic.  My dad’s movie choices are pathetic. My social life is pathetic.”
“Yea, so join the club.”
I had no idea my muttering was actually audible until the voice from the neighboring bathroom stall interrupted my barrage of personal putdowns. I just couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut today.
“Oops. Sorry. I didn’t know there was anyone else in here. I hope you’re not missing an important scene in your movie.”
There was a semi-amused grunt and the sudden flush of the toilet before an answer came.
“As if. If I ever agree to come with my sister to another one of these sappy chick flicks…Well, there is no appropriate punishment. Guess I’ll just have to invent some ridiculous seven thousand page research paper due in, like, twelve hours when she begs me to come along the next time. I mean, really. We’re in college.  Does she really think I want to tag along while she mourns the loss of her last douche bag boyfriend by commiserating in the screen presence likes of the most beautiful actresses Hollywood has to offer? I don’t see how this helps the situation at all.”
I did my own flushing and nearly sighed out loud with physical relief. I did have to congratulate myself on the brilliant idea to consume my entire soft drink so early in the film. This was the second time this month that I had escaped probably the goriest scenes in dad’s marathon of blood and guts.
When I exited the stall to wash up, I was surprised that my secret cohort was still in the room. And, she was smoking a cigarette. Or at least waving a lit cigarette in the air close to the smoke detector. Which obviously was not working.
“I really don’t think that’s allowed in here,” I did my best not to sound judgmental as I lathered my hands with the astringent disinfectant hand soap.
My eyes met those of the smoker in the mirror just as she tossed the cigarette under the stream of water in which I intended to rinse.
The girl was about the same age as me, but infinitely more worldly. Her eyes were ringed like a raccoon with the blackest eye liner and her hair was a teased, ratty mass of died black curls. She reminded me of the Wildling character in that HBO series that I wasn’t supposed to watch. Of course she is smoking in a public place, I thought. That’s what her type does.
Raccoon eyes met my gaze in the mirror, causing me to immediately panic that I had spoken once again out loud. Those thoughts were actually more a reflection of Holly’s influence and Janie’s attempt to attract the popular crowd than what I really believed; but I also realized shamefully that my attitude toward the Goth, EMO, and basically socially inept school crowd was dangerously close to matching my friend’s opinion.
I understood the need for social acceptance, but silently was indifferent to appease my gal pals. Life could get a little boring around our small town without the company of a friend or two, so it was my custom to not rock the proverbial boat.
“Well, at least your movie will probably end  happily ever after with little to no blood shed or climate destruction,” I checked my teeth in the mirror for popcorn husks and wondered what else I could do to keep me away from the big screen.
“Yea, but at least that is reality. I guess you’re telling me that you’re in the exploding film in Cinema Two? We’re right beside you. Daphne, that’s my sister, checked her phone to make sure my potty break didn’t coincide with any good love scenes.”
I had to laugh at that. Evidently the new phone app was a popular item with film goers.
“So, you know that anything you miss will be on instant replay for your viewing pleasure as soon as you leave the theater.”
“Yes, but as my sister likes to say, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”
“I think that was Natchez,” I hoped I didn’t sound as superior as that knowledge made me feel.
“That’s who Daphne thinks she is,” came her reply and our grins met one another in the reflection.
We joined in a conspiratory giggle as we both reached into our individual pants pockets for an identical tube of Burt’s Bees lip gloss.
Tipping our separate glosses in an air salute, we leaned toward the mirror to apply champagne tint to our lips. I had to marvel at the opposite effect of the pale pink lip color. It made me look even younger, but with her wild dyed hair and dramatic eye make-up, she just looked more “out there”.
“I’m Americka, by the way. Meri, for short,” I said as I rubbed my lips together to even out the thickness of the lip application.
“I bet you have quite the story behind that name. Fiona, here. Nice to meet you, Americka. Why do I feel like I’m about to break out into an old folk song?”
And without prompting, I belted out the first verse of America the Beautiful in perfect pitch. Because that’s what I do. I sing.
Fiona sat in stunned silence for less than a second before bursting out into laughter.
“That’s perfect, Americka. You and that song are as one. Americka, freakin’, beautiful!”
I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. SO HARD. This would be classified as what Holly called the Stupid Giggles. The perfect stress release, senseless and uncontrollable. But it was nothing compared to what came from Fiona. The tears running down her face turned to black rivers of eye liner as she gulped for air and we nearly fell over one another to sit on the grimy floor and lean against the cold tile of the restroom wall.
“D-do you think that pee-pee app says anything about a laugh break?” I wanted to say something back to Fiona, but when I opened my mouth only a giant hiccup erupted, causing another round of insane laughter.
I don’t know how long we squirmed around on that filthy floor, bound together in this shared mirth, neither of us too concerned about movie companions. I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard.
Little did I know this would be the last chance I had to laugh in a long, long time.
We did our best to gain control of ourselves, dry our eyes, reapply the champagne lip goo, and put on our game faces. I checked my watch to affirm that Dad’s current war would conclude in less than ten minutes and that my arrival would perfectly coincide with the closing credits. Fiona and I shared one last grin and pushed open the heavy restroom door. This hadn’t been such a bad day after all.
Until we heard the explosions.
And the screaming.
And realized that our lives were about to change.
Forever.











Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blogging is HARD

As I work to further my career as an author, as well as attempt to reach other folks battling the MonSter, I know that I must embrace the assistance of technology. I read the top selling articles on the subject of blogging and try to keep up on trending blogs. I check my FB fan page daily and "lurk" on twitter, while really not knowing what I am doing there. although I really enjoy playing around on Good Reads, I am clueless as to my purpose. And Pinterest....blow my mind! Whoa! Yes, I have followers, and I appreciate that greatly, but I haven't a clue what I am doing there.

I know, I know...I sound like a total idiot. I accept the criticism, but my cog fog will not allow me to fully understand the whole Pin, Tweet, Share experience. Sometimes I just do not get it.

So, I am totally open to any suggestions, advice, tips thrown my way.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

A BARNES AND NOBLE KIND OF DAY




Ii have been looking forward to this day for weeks. I will be at Barnes and Noble in Morgantown, WV, 1-4, with my first nonfiction book. If the review below doesn't excite you, go to Amazon and read more humbling words my readers have offered. 

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, my world came to a grinding halt. Was I going to die? Would my baby son be raised without a mommy? Would my friends and family still love me in the presence of such an ugly disease? 
In the words of someone somewhere,  "we gotta do what we gotta do". There is no time in this one- shot life for self-doubt and pity parties. 

Hopefully I Have MS. What's Your super Power? will make you laugh, possibly bring a tear, but ultimately enlighten you on the mysteries of multiple sclerosis and the every day limitations of this disease. 
You do not have to have this disease to enjoy the read. But, if you know someone who has or know someone who knows someone who has this condition, consider grabbing a copy. It's small; it's short; it's packed with information. (And my illustrator did a heck of job with the cover art! Kudos to Ashley Teets!)


I Have MS. What's Your Super Power? by Lisa A. McCombs
Life-changing events bring out a super power that each of us needs to survive. Many look to their faith, families, friends, and each of them--in their own way--provide a strength that bonds into a shield of protection that allows surviving the unthinkable. This amazing story shows how absolutely tough those afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis have to be. Multiple Sclerosis is an insidious disease that affects 200,000 to 3 million people per year around the world. Lisa McCombs writes her personal experience with "no holds barred" to help others and their families cope with MS. Touching, heart wrenching, and yes, even humorous at times, this is a book you won't easily forget, and you will see Lisa's super power shining through

Monday, December 7, 2015

Authors Need and Want Honest Reviews

It has been brought to my attention that some readers are having problems leaving a book review on Amazon. Here ya go:
1. Go to Amazon.com
2. Type in the name of the book you wish to review.
3. Click on the book title.
4. Click on a review star or scroll down to "write a customer review". and click on that.
5. Write your review in the space provided.
6. Click submit.
You will be given a message that your review is under review (yea, I know...redundant) and that you will receive an e-mail notifying you when your review is approved for publication.
A book review is generally two paragraphs detailing your thoughts on the writing and subject matter of the book. Reviews are extremely important to the public success of a novel and especially crucial to an author's state-of-mind.
All authors appreciate a positive review, but honesty is the best compliment a reader can give a writer.
Please consider reviewing the books you read. Amazon is only one of many on-line venues. Good Reads is another place that accepts reader reviews.
Thank you for allowing me to practice my teacher skills while continuing to recover from my recent retirement from the educational sector:)

My Challenge:
I review daily but not always for my WV author friends. I vow to post review more frequently. How 'bout you?
Game On!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Today is all about me.

TODAY IS ALL ABOUT ME

Today is all about me. It is Sunday. I have been to church and am ready to snuggle down to an after noon of  mindless of Lifetime Movie watching and knitting. That is, after I prepare a little Sunday dinner for my guys and wash the mysterious mountain of dirty dishes in my sink. but that won't take  long and I will get to the purpose of a Sunday afternoon.
Yep, today is all about me.
But yesterday was all about reconnecting with old pals and meeting new, awesome writing friends. The Kingwood Public Library hosted a wonderful after morning of sharing and writing comradeship. Meant to be a community event for the good folks of Kingwood, I think this really turned into a celebration of those WV authors who attended the event. We did get to interact with the public, but that was secondary to the prosperous learning experience these authors provided for one another. The treats were delicious and the tea comforting. The professional knowledge shared was priceless. 
I am so grateful to belong to such a giving, sharing family of writers.
I learned from S.J. not to get too close to the photography subject while on the job, especially if that subject is a bear...or an alligator.
My new friend Danielle is my new IT gal. She is a walking wealth of trade technology information; as well as an area zombie hermit crab expert.
Trinny, Theodore, and Renee reinforced in me a love for poetry and an appreciation of finely tuned words of verse. Theodore wowed us with his innovative use of  decorative tins. Renee delighted us with her sugar plumbs and Trinny got a giggle or two from us  compliments of Mag and Mae.
Laura brought copies of  The Silver Tattoo and I had the chance to again tell her that I had reviewed her story "somewhere". I WILL acquire a copy of Patricia's novel next week. I will also find Jennifer's Kindle published books since I am smitten with her ghost story affection.
Diana share some personal words from her first book.. And Georgeann didn't read to us, but she is responsible for making this event possible.
My head spins with the gargantuan amount of knowledge that occupied that cozy library yesterday.
I want to take a little bit of everybody there and combine all those  talents. Talk about s show stopper!

The more I think about my new friends, the more humbled I become. And the more I realize how insignificant Lifetime movies and my beginner's knitting project are. 
Today might be all about me, but yesterday is going to direct my tomorrow. Thank you, Kingwood Library for bringing us together and for ample "food" for thought.


And now, I had better get busy on those dinner preparations, so I can spend the rest of my day perfecting my writing.