It’s been a busier summer than I expected. I envisioned long days spent writing on my novels, reading new selections from the Book of the Month Club, and chilling at the Crosscutters Baseball games.
Instead, I’ve spent most of my time preparing for the annual Lycoming College for Kids & Teens youth program. Last week, I embedded myself at the camp and (literally) put out fires as more than 200 children and 40 teachers and assistants participated in hands-on science, art and engineering classes.
It’s an exhausting experience, but it’s rewarding. I try to be the first face the parents see when they deliver their child to the program, and the last. If someone has a question, a complaint or a compliment, I want to hear it. I try to make a connection with each person attending or working for me, during the week.
As an introvert, it takes its toll on me. It’s an ordeal to speak with so many people.
As a lazy writer, it’s harrowing, because I walked 50+ miles around the campus, checking on classes, solving problems, troubleshooting situations, fixing computers, delivering supplies and ushering children. I enjoy being the director, but it’s the most difficult job I do. That makes the rewards all the sweeter.
There’s been a huge change in our lives: we’ve purchased a second home in Florida, making my husband’s dream of retirement to a golf community a reality.
He’s been fantasizing about a lovely home on Pine Island for a while, and during our recent vacation home, we ventured to the island for a few days. With our iPads in hand, the Zillow app open, we toured many neighborhoods that interested us. These forays into sideroads confirmed two concepts: We wanted to live on Pine Island, and the best neighborhood for us is the Alden Pines Golf Community.
Lance’s brother, Calvin, is a realtor in Florida, so he and his wife, Pam, jumped into their car and took a spontaneous trip to join us on Pine Island. Using his realtor wiles, he contacted the agent for our favorite house, and we toured it.
From that moment on, Calvin paved the way to becoming second-home owners, and it’s been a smooth transition.
We’re still in the paperwork process, but it’s going well and we have a date for the closing. Our plan is to rent the house to “snowbirds” until we’re ready to retire. The plan is a little risky, but all investments are, so while we’re excited, we’re also a little worried. But, we can’t let fear rule our actions. We have to leap with hope and love and optimism.
I’ve been absent for awhile, but with good reason: I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist, and I’m pecking at the keyboard, slowly, with my left hand.
It’s been an opportunity to explore the concept of being ambidextrous. Using the mouse left-handed has also been a challenge.
I’ve been diligent with the hand exercises, setting a timer for every 15 minutes, thanks to a mobile app on my phone.
I need the left-hand corrected, also, so this will not only interrupt my writing, but delay my scuba diving this summer.
Here’s a couple of photos to document this correction, which I’ve needed for 35 years. Carpal tunnel first developed in my wrists when I was carrying my first child. A second child, an auto accident and decades of being a writer contributed to a diagnosis of severe CTS.
I decided to stop avoiding unpleasant experiences because of my fear of suffering, and instead relish the challenge that leads to improvement.
What are you avoiding?
What will it take for you to make the first step?
I read a lot, and one book I’ve been meaning to read is “H Is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald. This massively popular memoir is stunning readers worldwide.
As a writer, I sometimes feel a tinge of jealousy when I read a great book. “I wish I could write like this!” is my common thought. I didn’t feel this way with “H Is for Hawk.”
I rejoiced in being a reader, instead. I read an amazing book and instead of feeling inadequate or resentful because I’m not comparable to Macdonald, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I won’t compare the book’s quality to my favorite, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but I can compare the feeling of contentment I had upon reading it.
If you haven’t read this outstanding book, order your copy today. I’m sorry I waited.
We were supposed to be in Florida this week, checking out Pine Island and enjoying Spring Break (POUT).
Instead, Lance decided we should go in May, and therefore he was in town and able to attend a company staff meeting, a situation he’s using as an excuse to justify his decision. Circuitous logic, for sure.
Now, instead of being in sunny Florida, enjoying warm weather, we’re prepping for Winter Storm Stella (must be yelled like in “Streetcar Named Desire.”) This storm threatens the entire Mid-Atlantic region, and we’re looking at anywhere from 6-inches to a foot and a half of snow. Blizzard conditions and winds up to 50 knots are predicted.
Men need to start listening to women. We could have been sailing on the Gulf of Mexico today. Instead, we’re gathering supplies in case the power goes out and praying it doesn’t since not only will we freeze, but Chubbers and Miles will be most uncomfortable. They have fur coats, sure, but they still will suffer.
I repeat, dagnabbit!
I spent the morning at a workshop with the Heart of Williamsport, and one of our team members brought up that today is March 4th, and we should “March Forth” with our project.
Trying to get back into research mode, but I’m out of phase.
Since slowing down to focus all of my energy on healing, I haven’t been able to catch back up to rest of the world.
I spent weeks resting, reading, meditating, and it paid off. Now I’m ready to get back to work, and it seems like the rest of the world is moving much faster than I am, speaking faster, performing faster.
It’s strange; I feel like I’ve slipped into a different dimension, and I don’t know how to get back in phase.
When I listen to recordings and meditations, the narrator seems to be speaking faster, and I find it hard to focus on what is being said.
Is this an after-effect of anesthesia? I hoped caffeine would help, and it did the first day back on regular coffee.
My philosophy of life centers on “Character.”
I often tell my students, “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” What I mean is, we often try to behave, be our best, when people are watching. But what about those moments when we are alone and nobody is monitoring us? Are we still being the best person we can be? Are we still generous and kind and honest?
It’s a goal I strive for, and most days I reach it, even though my dog, Chubbers, may be the only one witnessing it.
I wasn’t reared in a family with religious beliefs. I think my Mother lost her faith after I was born. She never took us to church; never introduced us to the concept of a God.
For my 7th birthday, a family friend gave me a large, encyclopedic book about the prehistory and history of humans, from Cro Magnon to John F. Kennedy. I adored the book and read it numerous times. It is probably the reason I became an Anthropologist.
It became my Bible.
When I was 8, I went to church with my Catholic neighbor, Donna Ryan. Her family gave me a real Bible, evangelizing. It’s a thick red Bible, but instead of reading it, I stashed mementos in it, like flowers and photos and obituaries. I still have it, and occasionally I look in it at my vintage treasures. The Bible is my treasure box, literally.
Later, when I was 12, I noticed a set of Christian books at the doctor’s office once, and they piqued my interest. It was a 10-volume set called “The Bible Story” by Arthur S. Maxwell. I asked my Mother for the set, and she complied. I read all of them, but with a scientific and historic fascination.
For the next few years, I also read every fairy tale and mythology book I could get my hands on. I don’t recall many lessons, with the exception of one, that stand out in the Bible Story, but I recall many of Aesop’s Fables.
When the popular musical “Jesus Christ, Superstar” hit Broadway, I enjoyed the music and picked up a T-shirt with the logo on it, and for a summer I declared myself a Jesus Freak, but I think I really just enjoyed the music. Jesus didn’t last.
Jesus didn’t last despite multiple attempts by family and friends and visitors knocking on my front door to introduce me to Christianity.
I respect the fact that others have Faith, and that it carries them through difficult times, but because I strive to maintain an honest, kind and generous character at all times, I cannot rely upon Faith when times are tough.
I cannot pray to a spiritual master only when I’m in trouble. And if I can’t pray when I’m not in trouble, it would be disingenuous of me to try it when I’m doing well. This is Cradle Fear, and I cannot allow it in my life.
I married a Christian. Many of my dearest friends are Christians.
This means religion is important to the people in my life, and as a consequence, to me, but I consider it from a respectful distance. I’m curious, but I do not have an emotional connection. Unlike my family and friends, my heart has never filled with Faith in a religious deity. I wish it could, sometimes, because I wonder what it would feel like.
I may not have faith in the spiritual sense, but I have faith in science and a reciprocal relationship between myself and others that involves both sides equally and in a mutual fashion. In other words, I have faith in the Golden Rule, the one lesson I did take from The Bible Story: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
It’s a snowy morning, the end of January, and it’s my first day back at work. For now, I’m tucked on my window seat with a jar of green (okay, brown) juice for breakfast.
I feel happy and positive, despite overdoing it yesterday. Too much physical work and outings (Doc and grocery store) and I crashed. That means I didn’t have energy to cook, so we ordered out and I succumbed to the God of Gluten. Not a great idea, so we will call it an experiment. Today, I am back on the wagon.
Looking forward to getting into the new semester with my students, and maybe rearranging the syllabus. Shake things up a bit. Get more creative.
I wasn’t sure how long I would be out, so I recorded a month of online tutorials. I can still use them, with lectures and labs.
Again, it was an experiment. We will see how the students felt about the hybrid teaching style. If they liked it, I may use it more often.
January has been a challenge, more so than November and December, for my health, so I’ve been focusing on improving it and healing.
Healing, I’ve discovered, takes intense hours of focus and concentration as I research, and then many languid hours of meditation and contemplation as I rest.
Above all, it takes patience, discipline and delayed gratification. Discipline, I can handle, but the other two personality traits are not my forte.
I’ve been in “healing mode” for more than a month now, which means for the past few months, I’ve also been experiencing a great deal of fear. Taking time to learn about serious health issues and how to tackle them, come out the other side smarter and stronger, has been my goal.
In a previous post, I wrote that I had developed Shingles, caused by the Chickenpox virus. I still have some lingering effects — sensitive skin where the blisters were, and mild vertigo.
I reckon the Shingles were caused by my fear, which kicked up the stress hormone (Cortisol), and diving off the deep end with chocolate to console myself (high arginine food).
Not sure if I mentioned it before, but my fear stemmed from a tumor on my appendix that the Doc found during a routine colonoscopy. It’s the kind of tumor you can’t ignore, and it couldn’t be removed endoscopically. Large and a threat, it needed surgery, and to be D-Double-Dang sure there were no other tumors in the adjacent area, the surgeon recommended a Laparoscopic Hand-Assisted Ileocecectomy. Basically, the Surgeon wanted to remove my appendix, a few extra inches of my right colon, severing my small intestine and reattaching it higher.
I had expected a simple appendectomy, and mentally prepared for it. Crikey, kids get their appendixes out. I wasn’t afraid of that surgery.
But a life-altering reconfiguration of my digestive system, with a couple of important pieces removed? That frightened me.
There was a laundry list of “Things that can go wrong” during and after this type of surgery. That frightened me, as well.
So, after meditation and counseling by my good friend Tonya Anderson of An Exquisite Life, and encouragement and support from my husband, Lance, I soldiered up. I assumed a calm, curious and brave attitude and checked into the hospital. I stayed “Mindful” and did not react negatively to anything that happened. I kept positive and cheerful, even when I didn’t really feel that way, and I focused on resting and healing and doing exactly what needed to be done.
I entered the hospital on a Wednesday afternoon, and exited it on Monday morning. One day spent in the surgical process and four more days spent in quiet, secluded contemplation and meditation, trying to rest. I was a model patient, always being helpful and cheerful and positive with the team of caregivers, because I couldn’t afford to waste one minute on negativity.
The result? No side effects, no problems and rapid healing.
It comes down to chemistry, I believe, all of my biological woes. And chemistry, I believe, is the answer, along with the spiritual communion with my body and the universe in which I dwell. My prime directive for two years has been to build my immune system and reduce inflammation. I wasn’t sure how successful I had been until these health issues emerged. Both, I have to say, were the results of my previous, unhealthy lifestyle.
My journey to good health began with my acceptance of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, and the discipline to adhere to it.
I am a scientist, but I have to acknowledge that Mindful Meditation, along with my insistence to eat organic, whole foods and use healing essential oils, has helped me tremendously. My husband is astounded that I was able to take control of my healing, both with Shingles and with bowel surgery, and recover quickly and be positive.
I’m a long way from being abundantly healthy, but the Docs and Nurses at the hospital told me I was the most healthy of their normal patients, despite my age, my weight and my illness. Walking out of the hospital in record time, feeling well and empowered, confirms this for me.
My challenge now is to learn how to survive with an altered body, and continue to improve, staying Paleo/Primal. I do believe there’s a book in here somewhere. I’ll keep notes and see where it goes.
Another year, and a new set of goals set by everyone. I have to admit, even though I try not to set new goals, I have to work on improving my health and writing more books. The other day, I wrote 3,500 words on my novel Dead Line. I felt inspired to work, then overdid it. On the health side, I’ve been using the stand-up desk my husband gave me as a Christmas present. It’s pretty cool, but it tires me after a few hours, and my recent bout with Shingles has left lingering pain.
Enough kvetching; what is great? I’m thrilled to be working, spending my days as a writer and researcher, and as a instructor. The new semester is starting mid-January, so I have to re-check my syllabus and update it. Technology changes so quickly, and I want to make sure I’m not teaching outdated material. I’m also going to created a few “canned” courses to help my undergraduate students when I’m not available.
I plan to experiment with the Teachable platform, making the course private and free. It’s an experiment, and if I like the way it works, perhaps I’ll try it for a professional course. I did demo the Course Cats theme, and it is lovely, but I’m not ready to use it yet on Self-Sufficient Author.
(This page was updated January 05, 2017)
I’m feeling better after my bout with Shingles. I know because I woke up around 1 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep for hours, tossing and turning and thinking about all of the things I want to do NEXT.
I curtailed bad thoughts by mapping out the next few months, interviews I want to conduct, books I want to read, course modules I want to create and manuscripts that need researching. I forced myself to stay in bed, which was a waste of time. I should have made myself a cup of tea, snuggled on my office window seat and read for awhile. It would have quieted the brain.
The brain has been low-functioning lately as I tackled the Shingle Shenanigans, curing myself of this malady in about a week’s time. Cranial inflammation meant severe headaches for several days. There is lingering pain, called Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can become a chronic condition because of nerve damage. Following my friend Tonya’s advice, I’ve been visualizing a golden “honey” warmth during short meditations to try to combat this problem.
So, when my normally overactive brain began kicking into high gear in the middle of the night, I let it. I rejoiced in the myriad thoughts and tried to keep pushing them into a forward, positive direction, since they signal a return to good health. So, that being said, I’ll take a short break from working, drink a heaping mug of kefir, and listen to a meditation.
(This page was updated December 30, 2016)
Christmas was canceled because I’ve developed a case of shingles, and my son-in-law has not had Chicken Pox. Rather than risk an event, we suggested the family stay put and we’ll get together after the New Year, maybe for a Super Bowl party, in D.C.
So, I’ve been learning a lot of lysine-rich foods, and that gorging on walnuts and chocolate and chia seeds, in retrospect, was a bad idea. It’s a painful setback, but I’ve been tackling it head on (since the outbreak is on the back of my head). My hippy, errr, alternate medicine-inclined friends, will be proud of the methods I’ve employed, and I have to admit, so far they seem to be doing the trick. I’ve been trying them all, so I’m not sure what’s working, so here’s a list:
- Valtrex (“real medicine” [according to my family] prescribed by Doc Chang)
- Vitamin E, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Eucalyptus Oil and Peppermint Oil applied 4x daily
- Teas (Lemon Balm, Echinacea, Dandelion) drunken and applied 2x daily
- Assorted supplements: Olive Leaf Extract, Lysine, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Zinc, Probiotic, Multi Complex, Vitamin E
- Apple Cider Vinegar, calamine lotion, aspirin
- Kefir, Kombucha, Yogurt, apples bananas, pineapple, greens
- Meditation and the massage chair
- Binge watching sailing videos on YouTube and Sherlock on Netflix
(This page was updated December 25, 2016)
I’m on the verge of being free!
You know how you always have tasks that need to be done RIGHT NOW and IMMEDIATELY?
I’m almost at the point where I can ignore everything and leap into the brilliant idea I had yesterday. The idea that is the culmination of the past few months spent thinking, ruminating, exploring and searching for the answer. Yes, THE ANSWER.
Sorry for the all caps. I’m a bit excited.
So, anyway, that one thing I have to wrap up is a pesky IRS form for my newly formed LLC and I wouldn’t have even known it existed or needed to be completed if it hadn’t been for my wonderful neighbor, Poincia, a professional accountant with her own business. We were sitting on my window seat, enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up a few weeks ago, when she mentioned the RCT101. Uggh. She offered to help me with it, but I’m still dragging my feet, looking at the Schedule L balance sheet. The truth is, it’s a new LLC, I don’t make much money (yet!) and it’s still intertwined with my personal accounting system, which is, “How much money is left in the shared bank account that I can tap with my connected Paypal credit card?”
I need to learn how to operate a business, instead of keeping my head in the sand.
That means this morning, I’m sitting here looking at the balance sheet, “Googling” all the questions, and basically entering a lot of zeros (no money, remember?), so I can send it to Poincia and get it filed before a whopping fee is incurred.
So, one more task to go, then I can be brilliant and write on the magical White Board all of my plans for my next book and online course.
(This page was updated December 20, 2016)
If I’m not teaching, I want to be learning. And if I’m not doing either of those, I want to be doing.
It can be a rabbit hole, the constant spiral of learning and then learning more. There’s a bit of obsession that goes along with it. I read blogs, sign up for newsletters, download free guides, listen to podcasts, watch video tutorials, on and on all day long.
I stash notes in Google Drive, stack printouts on my desk, and I begin to feel like a squirrel ready for a long winter’s rest, goodies piled up in my office nest.
This isn’t a new habit. Recently, a friend asked me for PDFs of a couple of books I wrote (freebies since they’re out of print). I spent hours looking through my old collection of CDs and DVDs, and came across a lot of saved content from the past 15-20 years of my digital life. Some of that content made its way into my Google Drive, making it more accessible to me and others. Some content was shared with others, like a Throwback Thursday.
It can be fun, revisiting old content, but it makes my current habit of collecting seem a bit pointless, if all I’m doing is reading and curating for myself.
That’s why I decided to create Self-Sufficient Author, a learning platform for other writers. This way, my research and ideas can be useful for many, and we can all benefit from my investment.
(This page was updated December 12, 2016)
I had an exciting adventure this past week with my friend Tonya. Well, the adventure was mostly her’s, but I was the hero. Lemme tell you all about it.
Tonya was preparing to come to my office to work on Friday. She woke up early, packed her books and papers and laptop, and even her bathing suit for our mid-day “Hot Tub Talks.” She headed to her own office to get some work wrapped up before focusing on our current project (planning her upcoming Bali Bliss Retreat). She’s still on “Bali Time,” so she go to work around 5 a.m., scurrying from the dark parking lot to her office. Somewhere along the way, from the remote lot to her office, her car key fell off the ring. She didn’t notice until around 9 a.m., when she started wrapping up her tasks and re-packing.
Tonya frantically searched her office, then the parking lot route to her car and back. She later said she felt uncomfortable, a black woman on her knees looking underneath cars in the parking lot, because another woman noticed her awkward position and “scurried away.” Tonya called out, “I’m looking for my car key, if you see it …” but by then the woman has closed the door to her shop. Tonya half-expected the police to arrive and ask her uncomfortable questions because we live in a small, mostly white, rural area of Pennsylvania.
Tonya called another friend to help her. Together, they went back to her house to search for her spare key, but to no avail. She then called the dealership and purchased a new key, which had to “learn” her ignition. See, car keys today have computer chips in them and if you try to use the wrong key, the auto-theft setting kicks in and disables the engine from starting. So, she tried to teach the key, and it didn’t work.
Around 3 p.m., she asked me for help. I came to her office and I searched the parking lot, knocked on nearby business doors and explained the situation. Tonya told me to stop trying, that we had to have faith in the new key, and use all of our powers of positive thinking to help the new key “learn” the car’s settings and work.
Well, I wasn’t comfortable with that route, since I’m not a spiritual person like Tonya. I’m an archaeologist with a scientific inclination. I knew that the key had to be there, somewhere, and if it wasn’t, then someone had picked up it. We just needed to find that person and we’d find the key.
Still, we sat in her car, in the cold, for an hour, going through the key-learning process, which requires us to turn the new key in the car ignition to on (without starting it) and wait 10 minutes. Turn it off for 5 seconds, then turn it back on for another 10 minutes. Then do it again.
The process did not work. We called the dealership, and they said it would have to be towed into the shop if it wouldn’t work, to “wipe the car’s memory.”
Meanwhile, my phone battery was getting low and Tonya’s battery was starting to weaken, also. Maybe the key was ready to work, but her battery was too low to start the engine? We tried to jump her car, using cables attached to my truck. It didn’t work.
We called for roadside assistance, and while we waited another hour in the car, I wanted to look outside for the key. It was now dark and raining. Tonya was firm. “This is the new key, Robin. We have to make this one work. The old one is gone. Let it go.”
I texted my husband to join us, since he has a better phone battery and could lend a hand. He joined us, and we tried to jump Tonya’s car again, this time with his truck battery. Still didn’t work.
As a single woman, Tonya has to do many things alone, and it’s difficult. She has to fight the frustration that comes not only with being single, but also not having family in the local area, and being a black woman in the United States. These are all obstacles when problems arise, because who do you turn to for help? I wanted to hug her.
When the tow truck driver arrived, he determined that her battery was fine, and the key most likely was the problem. He started to load her car onto the flatbed of the truck. Meanwhile, it had been four hours of trying to get her car going, and I had to pee. So did Tonya. We walked back to her office and while I waited in the hallway, I turned on the light and looked again for the key.
I could hear Tonya yelling from behind the bathroom door to “let it go” but I couldn’t.
And you know the rest of the story, don’t you? Because I already said I was the hero.
That’s right I turned around and looked and there, but the front door, sitting next to the fire extinguisher on the window sill of the lobby, was a black car key. Someone (the true hero) must have found the key earlier in the morning, perhaps before 9 a.m., and picked it up for safekeeping. Perhaps it was a delivery driver for the company next door, where I had asked earlier and they said they would check with their employees. Maybe someone came back to the shop to “clock out” and return the delivery van, and found out about the woman next door who lost a key. That person must have come into the lobby and saw all the locked doors, and left the key.
We ran back to the tow truck, calling out, “Wait, wait! We found the key!” and when Tonya sat behind the wheel, slipped it into the ignition and it cranked the engine, I whooped with joy, nearly splitting everyone’s ears.
The moral, of course, is to “Never give up.” I can’t give up. You can’t give up. When times are bleak and against you, when it’s cold, and dark and rainy, even when it’s bright and sunny, never give up. Keep looking, keep trying, and keep hoping. And love your friends, especially the ones who need more help than others. Be there for them and encourage them to, never give up.
(This page was updated December 4, 2016)
Most people are prepping for the holidays here in the Pennsylvania Highlands, but I’ve kept myself occupied with creating resources and taking online courses as I develop Self-Sufficient Author. If it weren’t for the hives I get every year after gorging on egg nog, I would barely notice the impending celebration. I think I’ll take a walk downtown and see how the shops are decorating their windows. That should get me in the mood.
The elections are finally over, and some people are happy, some are depressed. I still love everyone, despite who you voted for, and I’m positive we’ll be fine. I’m moving forward, except for the fact that most shows on our DVR are circa October, so we’re still zipping through political campaign ads. It’s like living the horror over and over again.
We spent the weekend in Washington, D.C. visiting with our family and attending a Redskins NFL game. That was a blast, and it was excellent to catch up with loved ones. I have to remember to keep my Metro Card in my wallet. It’s a small frustration, because I have to buy new ones every time I visit. There goes $2.
The fall college semester is winding down, and I have a lot of student work to read, edit and grade, so I may disappear from the Internet for a couple of weeks. It’s great to be busy, and I’m happy and hopeful.
Have a wonderful Festivus!
(This page was updated November 22, 2016)
Join my Circle of Self-Sufficient Authors & Writers
Join my Circle of Writers & Authors and receive six FREE writing resources. Your freebies include:
- 21-Day Writing Sprint Challenge
- Secrets of Success from 25 Bestselling Authors
- Time Management Grid System
- Self-Publishing Business Checklist
- A Useful Guide to Free Photos, Media & More
- Getting Published