Sometimes Progress Ain’t Progress

I am the biggest fan of the Kindle.  I mean like, it’s my favorite thing on the planet.  I carry it with me everywhere.  The best friend for anyone who loves to read and possibly has a weak back from carrying 3 or more books around at a time, and maybe a little ADHD to boot.  No lie, I will pull that sucker out in a drive-thru line if I’m not moving fast enough.  If you don’t have one already, buy one.  I highly recommend it.

So I love it.  Like I love, love it.

But here’s my one gripe.

They have this new thing now where you can self-publish.  So any Joe Schmo with two pages of written material (or so) and an internet account can go to Amazon, load their two pages, and sell it like it’s a “real book” for say $0.99.

I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve been duped into buying some book with all these raving reviews only to realize in the first five pages it’s just some watered down version of Twilight with a different setting and the reviews were from a bunch of junior high kids (I can only assume) who, bless their sweet, young hearts, have a different definition of “THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!  I ABSOLUTELY LOOOOOOVED IT!!!!!’ than I do.

I loved the Twilight love story as much as the next person but please, no one think for one second this was some literary masterpiece.  The writing was weak at best.  Ter-ri-ble.  (Not $0.99 self-published terrible by any stretch, but terrible in its own category.)  Twilight became “TWILIGHT” because of the actual story, not the writing.  The naive damsel in distress with the hero protecting and loving her so devoutly.  Waiting 100+ years just for her.  Fighting over her with another equally hot freak of nature.  What girl doesn’t love that?

But now, because of Amazon’s self-publishing bit, I am inundated by stories of girls who don’t know how powerful or special they are because they’ve spent their whole life somehow believing everyone on the planet is able to read minds or change people’s emotions; or that everyone else has the recurring dream of the mysterious, handsome fellow watching over them until they become “of age” and the guy can finally jump out from behind the bushes and confess his stalker love.

Because none of that would ever have come up in conversation at any point in 18 years for any reason at all.

*yawn*

It really makes it painfully obvious how imperative the editing process is for a writer.  At that point someone could tell you, ‘Hey.  This one’s been done.  Recently.  And the other version is better because at least it wasn’t a knock-off.’

But even if the story passed…..the spelling.  The grammar.  The punctuation.  Ohmygod.  For all that is holy, please someone, help these people for they know not what they do.  It makes me want to stab hot irons into people’s eyeballs when I see some of this stuff.  There isn’t a computer made today that doesn’t have a spellchecker included.  For free!!  Use it.  Please.

I’m not trying to be mean here (ok, maybe a little) but I beg of you self-publishers, have someone who isn’t afraid to give constructive criticism read it over a time or two.  Have more than one person read it over.  Correct all misspellings.  Add or subtract punctuation where needed.  Have your critic(s) list on paper how many ways your story can be compared to Twilight and if that list is 6 or more, try again.  With a new idea.

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Just Sayin’

I’m 35, which is like waaaaaaaay past……painfully far past……what I figure to be the average MTV-viewing age.  For the most part I don’t watch much on MTV anymore, but last night I’m relaxing, scanning the guide on my TV and suddenly there. it. is.

guide-001(not the actual photo because I lack foresight)

Something happens that I can only compare to a Pavlov-like reaction and suddenly my mind is a mushy-brain train with one lone track in sight and all I can think of is….

ct

CT.

I made his name it’s own sentence because…..really,do you need a reason?

Some of you may not be familiar with Real World or Road Rules (which they began way back when I was in my MTV-age years), which means you’re also probably not familiar with the offspring of those shows called The Challenge.  Which means some of you poor, poor souls are not familiar with the double-sexy-dipped ball of hottness in that picture up there.

Well there he is, folks, in all his pretty boy glory.  Yeah, he has the typical good looks one would expect of a TV show celebrity.  He has the pretty blue eyes and the perfectly styled hair, the just-long-enough beard stubble, the sculpted body….Yeah, he has all that.  While it’s nice….yawn.

Let me just tell you……none of that pretty boy stuff matters.  This guy IS. A. BEAST.  I mean, he originally caught my eye a few seasons ago when this confused little fella tried to punch him in the face.  It was so cute, bless his little heart.

Later CT’s  stalking around in a circle outside like a bull with his gravelly voice and his Boston accent yelling and trying to catch this kid with like five grown guys trying to keep them apart – or keep CT corralled – either way.  And here I am watching at home and I can’t stay still in my seat because….I liked it.  You know.  Quite impressed.

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Last season he carried a guy on his back like some kind of robo-beast:

backpack

You know, every girl has those certain men who, regardless of rhyme or reason, just make them lose their minds.  And morals.  And anything else that might get in the way.  That one right there does it for me.

I’m just sayin’.

God is Good.

I’m going to give you a peek into a little portion of my life today.  Stick with me through the old stuff and trust me when I tell you there’s a purpose.

Like lots of people, I had a less than perfect childhood.  I’ll skip the sordid details in the spirit of brevity and pick up when I was 14 and living with my father and brother.  My mother was out of the picture for two years until I started sneaking around to call her and we started up a relationship.

At the age of 14 I made a decision that changed the path of my life.  My father was abusive to me so I moved in with my mother who I hadn’t been around regularly for four years and barely knew anymore.  I knew this decision would have consequences, I just didn’t know what they would be.  When all the dust settled, I lost my father’s side of my family.  My father, grandmother, aunt, cousins, and most importantly, my brother who continued to live with his father.  (For the record, our father and mother are the same.)  All communication was cut off to me.

I have never questioned whether I made the right decision or not.  I know I did.  While the new situation with my mother wasn’t great, it was better than what I had at my father’s house.  Sometimes choices are like that.  It’s not always good or bad, black and white.  Sometimes it’s gray here, and more gray there.  Pick the lesser of two evils kind of thing.

But that didn’t make the price I paid any less painful for me.  The only thing I have ever regretted is that I lost a relationship with my brother.  Something I’ve always prayed about, and always wished were different.

It was about 10 years later when my brother started showing up again but at that point he was angry, his visits were unpredictable and sporadic at best, and it was just impossible to develop any kind of stable relationship with him.  I can’t tell you how bittersweet the times were for me when he was around.  I would drop any and everything whenever he popped up to be able to spend time with him, knowing that I probably wouldn’t hear from him again for months.

Skipping forward to seven months ago and again in the spirit of brevity, I hadn’t spoken to my father in 20 years.  Been around him a few times, never spoken.  I had a mostly recovered relationship with my aunt and cousins for about a year or so.  My brother came around occasionally and while I loved seeing him, it was difficult.  I was aware that he’d been off and on drugs, and of course all the anger he harbored….it just wasn’t easy.

In hindsight, I underestimated the power of drugs.  I’ve never had a problem with them myself.  Not even with something as seemingly innocuous as cigarettes.  I only saw James sporadically like I’ve said, and it turns out that was only when he was clean.  I didn’t see him high.  I didn’t see him hallucinate, or jumpy and fidgety; I didn’t see the mood swings.  So I underestimated.  If you get nothing else from this, hear me when I tell you….do NOT underestimate.

I thought drugs were something he’d defeated.  I only saw James high one time and it was during a break-up with his girlfriend.  I thought he’d had a hard time coping and had turned back to drugs for a little bit then cleaned up again.  I didn’t know it was an ongoing fight for him.

So in January when I got a call at work from my aunt that my brother was sick and being taken to the hospital with a high fever, I thought flu.  When I heard ’emergency room’, I thought meningitis.  Because the relationship with my father was non-existent and ‘strained’ would be a nice way of putting it on a good day, getting information was like pulling teeth.

I found out later that evening my 30 year old brother had a stroke.  A massive stroke.  He was in ICU at our local hospital with 103.7 fever and they were giving him a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 30 days.

I went out to the hospital that night.  I didn’t care about my father who puffed up like a bloated bullfrog anytime he saw me.  I didn’t care about the family drama and whose feet would get stepped on or who would get offended or anything else that might come from it (and believe me when I tell you, as sad as it is, that stuff was going on while my brother lay in that ICU hospital bed).

James was completely paralyzed on his right (dominant) side.  His face was turned to the left, his eyes looked left, and when he tried to talk it was incoherent.  My heart broke right there in ICU that night.

Things didn’t look good for a few weeks.  He had a blood infection that kept his fever in the 103 range.  We were desperate to get it down and the nurses were pumping all kinds of antibiotics into him trying to find some combination that worked and even had him sleeping on a cold air mattress until they found it.  His brain continued to swell for the first two CAT scans they did, putting his life in jeopardy.

While all that was going on, James was combative (drug withdrawls) and there was nothing we could do to calm him down.  He didn’t realize he was paralyzed and would continuously try to get out of the bed and “go home”.  After trying to hit the nurses once or twice he was strapped to the bed.  When they finally trusted him not to do that anymore , he tried to pull out his IVs and wires so many times they finally put white padded gloves on his hands so he couldn’t use them.  When the withdrawls had passed he was still irritated because of his inability to communicate, and of course he hated the mittens.

ICU for head trauma patients has certain visitation times – we’re talking 30 minutes every few hours – and they’re fairly strict on it, as they should be.  I was at the hospital for every one of those visits I could be.  Every time I walked off the elevator my father would blow up and huff loudly so I could hear him, just in case I thought he might be happy to see me that time.  In James’ room whenever James was nice to his father, Allan (the father) would look up at me and my mother and smile smugly to rub it in.  That was fun.

The poor nurses….On top of my brother’s health and his combative behavior, they also got front row tickets to the circus performance that is my family.  ‘The girlfriend isn’t allowed in his room’, ‘The girlfriend IS allowed in his room’, ‘Tell ME what’s going on with him first’, ‘No, tell MEEEE!’….My parents actually had security called on them one night.  Seriously.

Slowly – very slowly – James’ health began to improve.  For those who have no experience with strokes what happens is that parts of your brain actually die.  The process/speed/extent of recovery is solely dependent upon your brain’s ability to “rewire itself” and find a new way to deliver all those brain signals where they need to go.

We began to be able to understand certain words he said.  They got the fever under control.  We understood a few more words.  The swelling in his brain stopped.  More words.  He became less combative.  A few more words.  Eventually he was moved into a regular room.

Over the next month and a half or so James was in the regular room and then was sent to a physical rehab facility.  His father got mad at him, or at nothing, three separate times and left to pout at home.  By the time James made it to rehab he was speaking coherently, and was beginning to learn to walk again.  He had a little set back because his fever spiked back up again, but they got it back under control.  At this point Allan was out of the picture for his third pouting spell, James was speaking coherently, and learning to walk.  His physical therapy but was held back somewhat because of a high heart rate, which at that point was seemingly the only problem.

About a month into rehab James’ breathing had become so shallow and his resting heart rate so high the nurse called the doctor at home and they did a scan of his chest.  He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and moved into the ICU department of the rehab hospital.  Allan comes back into the picture.  The next morning they performed an echocardiogram and the results were serious enough that James was transported that same day back to the larger hospital’s heart wing.

Remember that high fever they’d had so much trouble with?  It turns out that was caused by a bacteria that was attacking his heart.  James had to have his aortic heart valve replaced.  Immediately.  The doctor never said as much but I could tell by what he didn’t say that if given the choice he would have waited to do the surgery, at this point two months after the massive stroke.

James was in the hospital another two weeks after his heart surgery.  He then moved in with our mother.  Within another month or two he was moving back in with his father and they’d decided he needed a pacemaker.

I was terrified when James decided to move back in with his father.  I thought I would lose my brother again.  We got in a bad argument a few days before he moved and I really thought I wouldn’t hear from him again.

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to have a glimpse of how serious James’ condition was, how close he came to dying more than once, and also the condition of the family.  Mind you, I’m holding back on a good portion of the drama.

The title of this post is ‘God Is Good’ and right about now you’re probably thinking, ‘Where?!?!  When?!?!?’ and at that time I would wholeheartedly second that notion.

Well, that was about two months ago I’m guessing.  Let me tell you how things are today.  I talk on the phone with James weekly at the very least.  I have been down to visit him – at Allan’s house, with him present and accepting – three times now.

As far as James’ health, he is now walking without the use of a walker or cane.  He uses a knee brace and he doesn’t walk as well as he once did, but it’s about an 80% recovery.  He has recovered about 15% of the control over his right arm so far.  His speech is almost normal with a few pauses or lost words here and there.  With the new pacemaker his heart rate is normal.

During my first visit with James, Allan spent the majority of the time working in the yard.  He didn’t speak to me, and if he spoke about me it was ‘her’ or ‘she’.  During my second visit Allan sat with us for a few minutes but again spent most of his time working.  We still hadn’t spoken to each other.

Yesterday was my 35th birthday.  20 years since I left my father’s house.  It was my third visit.  I celebrated it with the entire half of the family I had lost before.  Allan was even there and he bought my birthday cake.

Later that afternoon we – the three of us – sat around a kiddie pool watching the dog play in the water and Allan actually spoke directly to me.  He used my actual name instead of ‘her’ or ‘she’ when speaking about me earlier that day, but that afternoon he spoke his first words directly to me in 20 years.

The best part of all of it is that I had my brother there.  He went to church with me that morning for the first time ever, he gave me a birthday card he wrote on himself with his non-dominant left hand (he was so proud!).  My brother who is now off drugs, non-smoking, non-drinking, walking on his own.

Just seven months ago I never would have imagined any of this would ever happen, much less within a year.  God has taken what I thought six months ago was possibly going to be the worst thing in my life and turned it into the biggest blessing.

God.  Is.  Good.

Determination

IMG_1150

The Hunter.

IMG_1149

The Hunted.

IMG_1148Will our hero be able to mentally teleport himself through the glass to

catch his dastardly feathered foe?

IMG_1153Dun

IMG_1157Dun

IMG_1159DUNNN!!!!!!!

 

What I’ve done…I can’t really decide if it’s genius or torture.  However, I stuck a bird feeder outside one of my bedroom windows and I’ve placed a little box under the window for Oliver to watch the birds eat….while dreaming of eating them.  I guess.

He really seems to enjoy it.  Seriously, he will sometimes spend a couple of hours sitting at this window, depending on how much action is happening out there.  Nothing, and I do mean nothing, else gets his attention like that.  My fickle little fella.

But he sits and he stares his death rays through the window and he flicks his tail around like he’s swatting at flies.  (How southern did I just sound right there??  “Swatting at flies”…Southern and 74 years old too.  Hotness.)

I had his front claws removed when he was young so this is about as close as he’ll ever get to catching any bird.  Bless his little heart.  But he seems to love it.

IMG_1146

Look how straight he sits.

 

Shhh…He’s huntin’ buurrds….

Model Remodel

I bought my house ( or started buying my house) 8 years ago when I was 26.  It is a small-ish  (less than 1300 square feet) 3 bedroom, 1 bath fixer upper.  And with all the naivety of a 26-year-old first time home buyer, I walked into this new adventure thinking first of all that I had miraculously become rich as I slept that night, and secondly that I’d have a bathroom and a kitchen remodeled within the first 3 months tops.  I’d also have a gorgeously landscaped lawn.

Here’s a grainy picture of me in front of my house the day I bought it.

1st day with house

Needless to say, the next day there was no remodeling going on.  The next year….no remodeling.  Strangely enough I hadn’t become rich overnight and there were these things called “bills” I was required to pay.  Funny how that happens.

So for the last 8 years this is the bathroom I walk into daily.

bathroom

Blue marble wall board.  It’s basically paneling made to look like marble.  Blue.  Marble.  People in the 70’s were about as delusional as I was when I got this house.

And this is my lovely matching bathtub.

IMG_1120Right.  I was too embarrassed to show a close-up of the faucet and other hardware, but it’s somewhere around 30 – 40 years old so you can close your eyes and imagine that nastiness.  You are, however, able to see the shower head that is detaching from the wall in its best attempt to end this miserable life.

Well last weekend – 8 years later! – I finally got that awful tub replaced!!  Hallelujah!!!!!!!

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I was so happy I took a picture of the missing tub….

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…as well as its ‘remains’ at my curb awaiting trash pick-up day.  RIP Ol’ Blue.

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Ta daaaaaa!!  This is my new, improved shower area.  Love, love, love it!!

Unfortunately the lovely blue marble wall board is still in place.  It is my next target.  *insert evil laugh here*

Project Chick

You know how last week I was all I-never-complete-projects-because-I-procastinate-procrastinating?  Well this weekend it’s almost as if my body was on a mission to prove me a liar.  I’m practically a project queen now!!

So let’s get started.  Last week one of our local craft stores had daily sales to get us all ready for the impending Mother’s Day by putting certain items on sale, determined for every mother to receive a handmade foamy picture frame, or one of those handy clay ashtray/bazeeblebug thing-a-majiggys we all made as children.  Fortunately for me, that meant one day they put acrylic paints on sale and though I’ve never painted a picture on my own in. my. life. I decided I must make an attempt at becoming the next Rembrandt.  Alas, weekend project number one is born….

I looked online and found the following picture for my inspiration:

I thought it would look great in my living room after I paint and redecorate like I want.  Really though, I just wanted to give it a try and see what happened.  We have a local place that charges around $35 and basically gives you a 3-hour art class where they walk you through step-by-step how to paint a different painting each night.  It’s really a fun girls night out.  I’d highly recommend it.

I’ve gone twice and one day I will post the pictures on here of the monstrosities I produced and allow you to compare them to the originals.  I don’t know if my mental translation of the instructions or my distinct inability to follow direct orders is at fault, however, to look at my paintings you would think maybe they sat me in another room and forced me to listen to the instructions through a wall.  Or two.

Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for this instructions-free painting.  I mean, if I can’t follow instructions from an actual experienced painter, what could I possibly expect when I let myself loose with no supervision?  Well……here’s the result:

“Genius!”  Is that what you just screamed in your mind?  Me too, friend.  Me too.  I feel you.

*~*~

Ok, so my intent was for that to be my sole project for the weekend.  However, the excitement of painting genius apparently wears off pretty quickly and I was a little stir-crazy.  It was a rainy day so there were no outside activities to partake in, sadly.

My fella friend bought me one of those plant-in-a-pot deals about two weeks ago and it’s been sitting untouched on my counter ever since.  Every time I see it I feel guilty because the poor guy obviously doesn’t understand what a non-completer I am and he spent at least a couple of bucks on this.  It’s even worse when he’s at my house and I just know he’s seeing its incomplete, untouched resting place each time.  With this in mind, I decided I would surprise him on his next visit with a completely potted flower bulb!

Here’s what I started with:

About 30 minutes later – because I had to wait for the included soil block to expand – this is what it magically became:

This is my first attempt at growing a flower from a bulb, so we’ll see how this pans out.  Even Oliver seemed to be a little skeptical…

Oh, ye of little faith.

Ok so the plant thing is a little less impressive on the ‘genius’ scale.  (Oh.  You do remember my Rembrandt, don’t you?  I’m not much of a bragger, obviously.)  I did, however, have to find a way to compensate for the shortage of soil, so I pulled a dead gardenia out of its pot and transferred the necessary dirt.  Very MacGyver-esque.

The weekend rolls on around to Sunday and another of my spontaneous project purchases has been taunting me for weeks now.

Dun Dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuun……

Another gift from my fella friend was a sewing kit at Christmas.  I’d expressed an interest in learning to sew and had even crafted a canvas log carrier for his Christmas gift.  Of course, since later December that sewing kit had found a permanent home in my crafty office/project room that never. gets. used. and was yet another of his gifts that taunted me with its lack of use.

So anyway, I bought myself a sewing machine thinking I’d make myself some curtains.  Sewing machine arrives.  I remove it from the box, do the minimal ‘assembly’ it required.  I pulled out the manual and went over all the parts.  I went to the local fabric store and bought some scrap fabrics for experimenting.  Then I proceeded to ‘pin’ a multitude of other sewing projects on my Pinterest board.  In the meantime, the sewing machine sat.  And sat.  And collected dust.  And sat some more.  As did that Christmas gift from my fella friend.

On Saturday I thought I’d try my hand at loading a bobbin, and threading the machine.  Neither of these things have I done since maybe high school Home Ec class.  I must say, I was pretty rock star.

Sunday I finally got brave.  I decided I had to start somewhere and I really wanted to be able to tell my fella friend I’d used that sewing kit and actually have something to show him.  *Drum roll please*

Ta daaaaaaaa!!!

I made my very own tissue holder!  A completely unnecessary item, I’m fully aware, but I made it and it’s mine!  All mine!

I did document the step-by-step process and am planning on posting to go through that process next for those of you who might be interested.  In the meantime, I’m a project chick now!

Project Complete! Let’s EAT!

I mentioned in my previous post, Random Kinda Weekend, a project I wanted to try.  Here is a snap of my inspiration:

Beautiful, aren’t they?  So I hopped on over to my local craft store and bought all the materials I would need to do my own version of EAT.  I got home and started on the first letter only to decide I didn’t really like the stencil I chose, so there it sat for an entire month taunting me with its incomplete-ness.

For those that don’t know, I’m a textbook non-completer.  I can get excited about any number of projects, buy the materials, and then leave them to collect dust for an indeterminable amount of time.  It’s almost like ‘non-complete’ is my actual hobby instead of all the little projects I pick up to try.

Skip forward an entire month and I finally decide I will complete those letters.  I have a new stencil and I’m ready to go.  So yesterday afternoon before girls night I sat down and I got to painting.

First up, a good solid coat:

Then, it’s stencil time!

And finally…the finished product!  *insert drum roll here*

The light pink doesn’t show up so well in this picture so here’s another that shows it a little better:

And that is the first completed project from the self-professed non-completer!