Sunday, September 7, 2014

Creativity Redux

So for like the 8th time in recent history I've started The Artist's Way again.  Clearly there's something in this creativity program for me if I keep doing it.  I think one of the signs for me is that, since I now sort of work on the fringes of publishing, I see all these mom&pop publishers putting out 3-5 eBooks a month on random topics, and somehow they're making it.  They're not millionaires, but I'm buying books from them, and I know others are too because they have employees, and book designers, etc.  They seem to be making enough to be comfortable, and I think to myself, "well I could do that."  

So why don't I?

I mean, I know eBook publishing as well as anybody else out there doing it (probably a lot better than anyone else out there doing it).  I already have a market in place with libraries.  I know good writing.  I've even done some good writing.

So what the hell is my problem???

I have a gazillion excuses - time, energy, job, yada fucking yada.  But I still have 24 hours in the day, just like Gandhi did.  He managed to win independence for an entire subcontinent.  And I can't put out a few eBooks?  Seriously?

I hit a fork in the road recently with my bipolar diagnosis, and then the summer was spent rehoming the cats and tearing down the home office J built me, but I'm starting to get into a groove now that Hannah is settling into a schedule that gives me at least 2 hours in the evening, and an hour in the morning (if I'm lucky) in which to do some creative work and still get a decent night's sleep.  I'm adjusting to my meds so that I don't feel like I got hit by a truck upon waking up every day.  

And the best part is that next year I'm not going to be working as much.  We have decided to move back to Pennsylvania and I'm going to take on contract jobs, hopefully staying with my current organization, and then maybe picking up some other projects along the way.  So I will have time in which to pursue some of these other goals I have around writing and creativity.

Every morning these days I get up around 5:30 or so to write.  I do my Morning Pages, and I'm working on actually finishing a damn NaNoWriMo book.  Which is good, because every day I get more book ideas.  But I actually have to finish one first.  So that's a goal for me, before the next NaNoWriMo in October.  Lots of editing and rewriting.

I have several friends who have had books published this year, and I'm hella jealous.  One has become quite a big deal - I see her books in Barnes & Noble, and I'm so proud of her - and she's an amazing writer.  But I'm tired of being on the fringes of that world.  I want to get in there and create and publish my own stuff, and stuff I've chosen.  I want to have a say over what gets created and published, too.  Life is too short, and I don't want to have some kind of crazy midlife crisis in 10 years because I never followed my dreams when I had the chance.

So here we go using the tools of The Artist's Way again.  Stay tuned to see what comes of it :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roger Mortimer: England's Greatest Traitor

I've recently started reading The Greatest Traitor, The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330, by Ian Mortimer.  I'm a big fan of Ian Mortimer, having read his Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the 14th Century several years ago.  He writes about some obscure history in a really accessible and conversational way, which I love.

In short, the story of Roger Mortimer is a little interlude in the history of the monarchy that doesn't often get the attention it deserves.  Basically, he was a nobleman based out of Wales, born in 1287.  His life was pretty normal and uneventful until around 1322 when he revolted against Edward II.

So Edward II.  Poor Edward II.  What can we say about Edward II?

He was sandwiched in between two great warrior kings, Edward I and Edward III.  He was the father of Edward III?  He was well educated, and intelligent, and also had very bad judgment.  He may or may not have had sexual relations with his dear friend Piers Gaveston.  Whatever their relationship (ie sexual or not) he loved Piers to the exclusion of others, and he risked much of his kingdom to keep Piers happy, rewarding him with land and titles that the nobles didn't think he deserved.

(Actually, I've just found a really great blog that started from a person wanting to salvage Edward II's reputation, so I'm going to have to do some reading on that, to see if my mind is changed.)

So the court was political and there were lots of factions.  To say the least.

And Mortimer comes along, and he's all, "yeah, this king sucks, I'm going to join the movement to rebel, and we're gonna kick some ass."

Except he got caught and was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  From which very few people ever escape.  In fact, Roger Mortimer was one of the very few people who have escaped.  At the time of his escape, he was the first.  He escaped by drugging his guards thanks to the help of a sympathetic guard, escaped through the kitchens and across the river, and eventually to Dover and then France.

Where he wound up taking as his mistress... wait for it... the Queen of England, Isabella, who was also sick of her husband and laying low in France.  Her young son, Edward III would eventually join the couple, and they would plot to invade England.

Poor Edward II (that's really all I can say about him now - Poor Edward II) is captured and imprisoned.  There are rumors that he was never killed, but somehow managed to live out his life in obscurity in Italy.  But he was most likely killed.  There are other rumors that he was sodomized by a hot poker, a token to his supposed relationship with Gaveston.  No one really knows for sure.

What we do know is that for several years, until Edward III came of age and got sick of being a puppet for Isabella and Mortimer, Roger Mortimer essentially ruled England.  He wasn't a king, he had no royal blood, but he was the ruler.

Eventually Edward III plotted his death, with a bunch of his equally-fed-up friends, and in the middle of the night they went through a tunnel in Nottingham Castle that went straight to Isabella's rooms, the door of which was conveniently left open by a sympathetic guard (sympathetic guards were very useful to have around) and Edward III came in with his buddies, swords drawn, and caused a bit of a scene.

Mortimer was subsequently taken to Tyburn, despite Isabella's pleas, and hanged like a traitor.  They didn't take him down for several days so everyone could get a good look.

Other than when Oliver Cromwell ruled as Protectorate, I can't think of any other times since 1066 (other than Regency's) when someone without royal blood has so clearly ruled England as a king himself.  That in itself makes him an interesting guy to study.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Project Fitness Update

So it's Monday, which means I do a Project Fitness Update, and.... it ain't too shabby.  I'm within 6 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight!  I'm hoping to get that off in a month.

I actually can't say that I know how I managed to lose 5 pounds in the last 2 weeks.  I wish I did know.  I know the following:

- Hannah now weighs 20lbs and 5 ounces.  I lift her up probably about 50 times a day.

- Hannah is now waking up at around 6:15 each morning (though of course we pray that doesn't continue for long.  Mama needs her Alone Time in the morning to drink coffee, meditate, write, etc).  But it is what it is for now.  Who knows, maybe tomorrow she'll sleep in till 7:30.  Knock on wood.  But anyway, what it means is that we have very long mornings together before I start work.  We go for a walk around our lake - all three miles, pushing the stroller on a hilly path - the majority of days.

- We go to bed really early.  It's almost 9:30.  That's my bedtime.  We start bath time at 7, and then put her to sleep at around 8.  Then a little quiet time, and then bed.  What that means is that I don't do a lot of late night snacking.

I guess those three things are combining to speed up my metabolism or something.  I don't know what it means.  But I'll take it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer Recap

So long time no post.  We've been traveling for my work, and busy with Hannah, and she's started sleeping through the night (yay) but winds up getting up at around 6 most mornings (not yay).  Which means that I kind of have to rethink my whole sleep schedule, getting up early to write, how I'm going to fit in The Artist's Way etc.  Our babysitter likes to talk about how she "puzzles" things together, and that's what I'm trying to do.

I was thinking back on the summer, and how it didn't work out at all the way I'd planned.  I had planned to go to Sweden for my best friend's wedding, and North Carolina for my stepbrother's wedding.  Neither of those things happened.  Instead, the following happened.

Memorial Day Weekend: the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend I went to the doctor and got meds for my bipolar disorder.  I took them that Saturday night, felt like a freight train hit me, and slept for 13 hours without waking up once.

Hannah moved into her own room Memorial Day Weekend as well.  It was a big weekend all around.

The week after that I was in New York for BookExpo where I met a lot of publishers, took lots of long walks through the city, revisited some of my old haunts, and ate a lot of Pret a Manger sandwiches.

In mid-June the shit hit the fan with our neighbor when he came pounding up our steps swearing at us (he has some anger issues).  We should have called the cops for disorderly conduct, but we were too shellshocked.  Next day the County comes out and says that:
- we have to tear down the cat shed
- we have to get an inspector out about the home office
- we need to rehome half our cats.

That night I escaped to Seattle for the launch of the Amazon Fire phone and met Jeff Bezos the next day.

When I got home we decided that we were moving back to Pennsylvania by the next summer.  We would swing seriously into Moving Mode, which meant getting rid of stuff, fixing up the house, and yes, rehoming our cats.  I stopped feeling safe in our home thanks for the asshole next door, who also started coming up more often.  Before The Incident we'd seen him twice in 7 years.  Now he's up like every week.

Ok, so we spent tons of time and energy calling cat places and trying to find homes for older cats, which is a tough sell.

Then I went to Vegas for ALA Annual.  It was hot.  That's all I can say about that.  Oh, and the Bellagio fountain show is amazing.

We started Mommy & Me swim lessons the last week in June.  Hannah had a blast with the kids in the water, and even went off the diving board.

By the 4th of July we had homes for the cats lined up, and we were delivering them.  J took down the cat shed, but it took a week because he was doing it carefully since we might wind up reassembling it in our driveway.

The inspector comes in mid July and says that J has to tear down the home office, and has 2 weeks to do so.

I work part time so he has time to disassemble, and Hannah and I spend a lot of time together in the afternoons.

We had our first yard sale on August 2, and made around $70, and got rid of 2 carloads of crap.

The home office was mostly torn down by her birthday, on August 7.  Which she spent in the ER with strep throat.  A 15 hour overnight ER visit.  I'm still recovering from that.

Sometime in there I went up to San Mateo and got pissed off at the summertime tourists clogging up the airport.

After all this, the idea of going to Sweden - just the idea of it - made me nauseated.  I just couldn't do it.  So I bailed on my best friend and his wedding.  So sad.  I also bailed on my stepbrother's wedding.  Too many people got married in August.

Hannah took her first steps August 9.  She was really seriously walking by around the 19th.  Now she's a pro.

This past week we were up in Santa Clara for a big event I do there each year.  The drive through the Central Valley with an antsy 1 year old who can walk was pretty rough.  I had told my boss back in mid July that I was moving, and was going to be working for myself.  I might still stick around with my current job on a consultant/contract basis (and in fact I think it makes sense for me to do so, at least for a year or two), but I'm also hustling for other work next year, and will be going to the Pa Library Association meeting at the end of September.

And today, to nicely wrap up the end of summer in a neat little package, we had our second yard sale and made around $250.  I sold the Asus tablet I bought in 2011 at Best Buy in Upland.  J sold his first guitar.  We're seriously getting rid of everything.  It's awesome and freeing and amazing.

This summer I also started practicing daily meditation, daily writing, and using the loseit app.  I'm within 7 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight.  I walk around the lake at least 4-5 days a week, with smaller walks the rest of the days.  It's great to start feeling healthy again.  I'm fairly well adjusted to my meds - they don't make me feel like I was hit by a freight train anymore, though I do still need 8 hours of sleep each night to not feel like death.

Hannah is on a good schedule, and I get time in the evenings to myself these days.  Also the mornings, if I can drag my ass out of bed early enough.  Now that it's getting light so much later, the 5:45 alarm seems even more like a medieval torture instrument.

And I've read a ton of books on Oyster.  I heart Oyster.

So that's where we are.  Nothing went as expected, but that's kind of how life goes, and I'm really excited about the future.  Working for myself, however that will go.  Moving back home (which sort of fills me with dread, but is also exciting at the same time - plus J is really excited, so it's great to see him like that).  Really committing to a number of big changes, which I think will be for the best for our family, and for Hannah.  It's been a crazy summer!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well

I've had several signs pointing me to the writings of Julian of Norwich lately.  She was a fourteenth century anchoress and Christian mystic, who, when she was 29 years old, was deathly ill.  While on her sickbed, she had sixteen visions of Christ, starting when she saw the garland wreath in her room literally bleed, the way Christ's crown of thorns would have made Him bleed.

After she had her visions - and survived her illness - she wrote about them, and was the first woman to publish a book in the English language, right around the same time as Chaucer, Revelations of Divine Love.  She also devoted her life to meditation on her visions, and became an anchoress in Norwich.

Another famous anchoress was Hildegard von Bingen, who is famous for being the first woman to publish her music compositions.  Anchoresses were nuns who wanted to completely shut themselves away from the world, and devote their lives solely to meditation and prayer.  So they literally walled themselves in a small room attached to the abbey, and there was a little slit where they would receive meals, and communion, and they could view the services.  They were regarded as very wise and learned women, and people would often stop outside and ask them for advice, or a blessing.

There is a festival in Norwich celebrating Julian now, Julian Week, which features lectures and information about this amazing woman.

I've been reading her Revelations (there are several versions in print, and available at my favorite place, Oyster) and I'm struck by something really wonderful, and I think, part of the reason why I was led to her (there are no accidents in life - or books).

In all her visions, she saw all kinds of stuff - she saw Jesus, she understood sin, she got her divinity, but she never saw hell.  There was no hell at all that she saw.  There was only everything being Well.  That was the key message that she got: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

This wasn't particularly a popular opinion with the Church, the Pope, etc.  But she saw what she saw, and even though she had moments where she doubted how real her visions were (between Showings 15 and 16 especially) she never doubted that she was spoken to by God, and what she was was a Divine message.

So here's how she came to understand it, after meditating on it for 20 years.  There is a part of all of us that is connected to God, that is part of God, the infinite energy of the universe, the Source of life, etc etc.  God would never send part of Himself to hell, and anyway, even Satan himself (if he even exists, which I haven't seen in her writings yet) had once been an angel, and is still part of God.  Then there's the part of us which is human, which messes up, and which hurts people (and ourselves).  That part suffers enough from our actions.  The part of us that is part of God is what is sustained after we die.

I like Julian.  She articulated answers to some of my most burning questions like 750 years ago.

“[God] is our clothing. In his love he wraps and holds us. He enfolds us for love and he will never let us go.”
 “The soul is immediately at one with God, when it is truly at peace in itself.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Project Fitness Update

So here we are, another Monday.  Oh man, this is painful.  So you know, we were at the ER on Thursday night into Friday.  And it's so interesting how I deal with stress, which is by eating.  I've noticed it so much this week.  I have a stupid fight with J, and I run out to the kitchen and grab a handful of malted milk balls to calm my nerves.  On Thursday night, I had a screaming baby on my lap for hours - I wasn't about to let her crawl around in the ER with all the who-knows-what on the floor.  So I just held her on my lap while she flailed and screamed.  And she sat in her stroller sometimes, and I'd walk with her.  But mostly it was her on my lap, flailing.  Until she finally started to pass out.  So guess what I did?  I hit the snack machine.  Grape soda.  Orange soda.  Diet coke.  A giant pack of vanilla cookies.  Chocolate.  You name it, I guzzled it.

I didn't choose to meditate and channel my inner silence.  No, I inhaled sugar.

This is not particularly healthy.

Even worse, I justified it because I did spend a ton of time walking her in her stroller in circles.  So I was like, "well, I'm walking her around for hours, that must be burning some calories, no?"  Uh, no.  Not that many.  

I've also gotten out of the habit of using the loseit app, which I started rectifying today.  I'd also been sliding on my meditation (mostly because I noticed that whenever I would meditate, I would start thinking hateful thoughts about my asshole neighbor, but that's a different story).  Which doesn't seem to be the point of meditation.  So I meditated today and pushed past that and started thinking no thoughts at all.  For about 6 seconds.

So that's where we are.  Stopped by stress eating.

New week this week.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

People I'm Glad I'm Not: Tony Stewart

It's still a rough time in HannahLand, with her still sick, and being super fussy for most of the day.  We did have a few high points - she took her first steps by herself! - but for much of the day it's been rough.  We're even letting her cry herself to sleep - something I've been totally against from the get go - because she's fighting sleep so much, but she needs it desperately, and when we're in the room with her, she just cries to be held and won't lay down.  Poor baby.  It's been rough.

Still, it's better than what Tony Stewart is going through.  The bigwig Nascar racer (3 time champion) killed an unknown driver last night by freaking running over him.  He was doing some dirt track racing an hour away from the Watkins Glen speedway where he was meant to be racing the next day in NASCAR, and got into an altercation with a driver, spinning him out.  The caution flag came out, and the driver stepped out onto the track, and seemed to play a game of chicken with Stewart when he came around the next time, pointing at him and not moving.  Tony is famous for his anger (he's pulled similar moves himself, even throwing his helmet at the car of another Nascar driver two years ago) and while it's tough to tell from the cell phone video, it appears that Stewart did something before hitting the guy - revved his engine, swerved, something.  The investigation will have to determine what that something was.

In the meantime, we're sad about it here in the Teysko house.  Tony Stewart has always been J's favorite racer.  The year J and I met, 2005, Tony won the championship.  We bought a #20 car Christmas tree ornament (now Stewart is in the 14 car, but at the time, it was the 20 Home Depot).  In fact, for a long time, J refused to shop at any DIY store besides Home Depot, thinking it might jinx Stewart.  Only once he changed cars would J walk into Ace or Lowe's.

J identifies with Stewart in lots of ways, but especially his anger issues.  He doesn't get road rage to the same extent as Tony, but he gets pissed off and says really stupid shit that he regrets later.  It's cost him friendships, roommates, and often causes fights between us.  But at the end of the day, nobody dies.  Tony lost his temper, refused to yield, and a 20 year old kid's existence has been wiped off the face of the earth.  And even if Tony didn't hit him on purpose, he still has to live with the knowledge that his car caused the death of this kid, and he'll need to wake up to that every morning for the rest of his life.

And so, I will take a crying fussy baby giving me a migraine over what Tony's going through, any day.  I'll wake up tomorrow and take my baby to the doctor, and she'll probably be happier, and then I'll get a break while I work, and then we might walk at the lake, and eat dinner, and have a bath, and bedtime might go better than it did tonight, or I might want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon again.  But either way, it's a hell of a lot better than what Tony's going through right now, and I feel for him.  And the driver he killed.  What a freaking mess.