Thursday, June 28, 2012

Strength—Fighting off Osteoporosis and Humiliating the Grandsons

A major factor in my mother’s death was osteoporosis. It caused her spine to crumble when she slipped and fell in water on the bathroom floor. I have osteopenia, that state when the bones are beginning to show porosity. I think that’s why my doctor doesn’t fuss at me about my weight. “I’d rather you be strong than thin,” she says, conceding that being both would be ideal.

I’m holding off osteoporosis with calcium, vitamin D, and exercise, waiting as long as possible to take the strong drugs drug companies want us to buy. I belong to a gym, which I visit too seldom. But I do yoga about three times a week, and I’ve figured out that though I can no longer do pushups, I can do about 35 “pushaways,” standing back from the cabinets, hands on the edge of the countertop, while my oats cook in the microwave. The exercise strengthens my arms, legs, back and abdomen, and my last test showed actual improvement in bone density. Also—I have visible biceps.

My two grandsons both top six feet now, towering above my barely-over-five-feet. Both are sweet and intelligent geeks with no interest in sports. I’m fine with that. Even happy that they haven’t fallen for the propaganda that insists all boys must be athletes. But I have learned the importance of strength, and I’ve tried to get both of them to take weight training to build theirs. Neither paid much attention to me.

Then one day we were sitting in a Denver restaurant, and I said, “I’ll bet I can beat you at arm wrestling.” I didn’t really think I could; I just wanted to get their attention. They didn’t believe I could either. They laughed.

I beat them both.

If they let me win, they put on a good act, and I must have put up a better fight than they expected. They’ve both promised me they’ll look into that weight training.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Two Days Ago--I Canoed the Amazon (Not)

If I had known the subject for this week’s blog was going to be “two days ago,” I would have tried to do something interesting.

But then the question is whether I’m supposed to report on something I did two days before the subject was announced, or two days before I wrote this blog. If it’s two days before I wrote the blog, then I had time to prepare. So I set out Thursday morning to hack my way through a hundred of miles of Amazon rainforest and make contact with a hitherto unknown tribe of aborigines. It was exciting.

OK, I didn’t do that. You guessed it, didn’t you? So I’ll tell the truth.

Two days before the subject was announced, I awoke with a sore throat after a restless night and spent most of the afternoon napping. Went to bed early in spite of having slept all day, and woke up Saturday feeling much better.

Oh. That’s too dull? You want me to tell you what I did two days ago from today?
I printed most of my accumulated receipts off the Mac and filed them neatly away in case I make so much money from my novel I need them for tax deductions, knowing full well that odds are I’ve just wasted my time.

But in between those “two days ago” periods, I did a few things that kept me from curling up and dying of boredom. A week ago last Thursday, I met a complete stranger at Panera and left with a new friend. I interviewed Diana Manning, an artist from a nearby village, about her memory montages for a story to appear in “Thrive,” a local entertainment magazine. Sunday after church, I wrote the story and sent it off to the editor. Friday I made a hotel reservation for me, my daughter, and my granddaughter. We’re going up to Chicago Monday for my granddaughter’s orientation at Columbia College. Other than that--cooking dinner, promoting my book on Twitter and Goodreads, and sewing lace on "The Dress." (Another story.)

And there you have it. Most people lead very quiet lives taking care of those things that must be taken care of to make their days and the days of their families run smoothly. I’m no exception.

Except that I can’t stay in this peaceful and predictable place. I lead another life in an alternate universe. “When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing” is finished and published, but Michael and Natalie are just beginning their lives together as husband and werewolf. They are insisting that I write down all their adventures exactly as they happen, from discovering the body of a U of I football player drained of blood and lying on the sidewalk near the lab to searching for a professor at the University of Glasgow who disappears after discovering a drug that could cure leukemia. I have a feeling it’s going to be another exciting year in my head, if not in my life. How about yours?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

GBE2: If I Had My Life to Live Over…

Thinking about what he would do if he could do it again is one of Hubby’s favorite musings, and sometimes he drags me along. So I wasn’t completely unprepared for this week’s GBE2 challenge. And  I’ve decided I wouldn’t do very many things differently because then I’d be a different person than I am. And I’m pretty happy with who I am now.

But there’s the catch—who I am now. So I’d hope I could do some things at least a little sooner so I could arrive at where I am now maybe 20 or 30—or more—years earlier.

I’d try to be kinder to people, and more patient. When I think back to some of the things I’ve said to people over the years, I’m nearly brought to tears for them. I wish I’d learned sooner that kindness costs you nothing and heaps untold riches on those you interact with, no matter how fleeting that interaction might be.

I’d travel as much as I could possibly afford as soon as could afford it. The world is a beautiful place filled with fascinating people, and we are poorer in spirit if we fail to experience as much of it as possible. Eventually I took time to visit Yellowstone, learn about St. Augustine, and travel to Scotland, but by the time I did, I could no longer walk the miles I wanted to cover, take the photos I wanted to take. I will probably never get to Machu Picchu because I waited too long.

I’d worry less about what people thought and just do what gave me joy. Although I loved my job and found it very satisfying, I spent way too many hours working instead of writing. But I’m thankful beyond measure that I lived to see the world of publishing open up as it has. It was in a very unhealthy place, under the control of too few people.  Authors like yours truly would never have had the opportunity to share our work with others if that situation had continued. I just wish I had more completed to share.

So all in all, not too many regrets. But I will leave all you young whippersnappers out there with one bit of advice: Don’t wait. Right now you think you have forever, but forever ends much sooner than you think it will.

Friday, June 8, 2012

High School--Eggheads and Dreams

They called us eggheads back then.

Egghead, dork, nerd, geek—pretty much the same except for the generation—someone who doesn’t fit in, whose interests are different from the norm.

I was a pretty good student in spite of being half asleep from taking antihistamines from July until some time in October, when we finally had a good, hard frost in Southern Illinois. In addition to always having a stuffy nose, I had a bad complexion, dishwater blond hair that hung in scraggly curls instead of a smooth pageboy, and I wore glasses.

Needless to say, I wasn’t part of the “in” group. I wasn’t part of any group; I just kind of hung suspended in social mid-air, a loner except for one or two friends who thought I was kind of weird, but were willing to hang around with me anyway. (Many years later, one of them generously introduced me to her sister as “the most avant garde of my high school friends.”) Escaping into books and the security of family protected me from the psychological damage some young misfits can suffer. (Although some might argue that bit about psychological damage.)

Having recently given up my plans to become a world-famous artist, I started high school wanting to be a physicist. I was interested in the electro-magnetic spectrum. Not even sure where I got that—maybe from a Robert Heinlein novel. But I had a little trouble with algebra that year—it just wasn’t easy for me. Then I had more trouble with plane geometry in my sophomore year, and then back to a little trouble with advanced algebra in my junior year. I also took chemistry that year, and though I loved it, I had a little trouble with it, also.

About mid-year, I was walking down the hall between classes, lost in my own little world as usual, and it came to me that having a little trouble with a lot of classes added up to a lot of trouble, and I began to second guess my career choice. A career, I decided, should be based on what you’re best at and what you love to do. So what was I best at? Well, I could always count on A’s in English and social studies. And what did I most enjoy doing? Reading. I read everything from the encyclopedia to classic novels to pulp science fiction. And it didn’t just come to me—it came to me like a voice from the heavens: “Idiot! You want to be a writer.”

I’m sure I stopped and gasped. I don’t know why I took so long to understand that very vital fact about myself. But once I did, I quit seeing myself as a mediocre science major and started seeing myself as an excellent English major who was taking science classes for research. And I went ahead and signed up to take physics my senior year with a changed attitude. You know—research.

Although I majored in journalism in college and worked as a journalist for many years, I never let go of my high school dream of writing novels like the science fiction and fantasy I loved so much. Recently, my urban fantasy novel, “When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing,” was published by Etopia Press.

Sometimes high school dreams come true.