Life Goodness

How My Heart Grew Three Sizes (at least)

So far this winter hasn’t supported this fact, but Ohio winters can be brutal. It was on one of those blistering, blizzard-like days last year when I drove my kids to school early in the morning. As we do each and every morning, we passed a bus stop which in our city is a pole with a picture of a bus on it. Standing there was a woman, bundled up, with a sad-looking stroller and a bundled up baby inside. Waiting for the bus with nothing to cover them, or shelter them from the nasty elements. For me, it was heartbreaking. I always want to help people out as I drive by, by giving them a ride, but this day and age – can you safely do that? I told myself ‘no’ and kept driving.

It was then that it hit me that I was so removed from anyone less fortunate. I have a relatively new car — new enough that it doesn’t break down on me when I try to go somewhere. I usually have a full tank of gas and when I run out, I just stop at the gas station to buy more. I’ve never had to ride a bus or depend on someone else for a ride. I have a warm house to go home to. And on that day I realized — I took everything I have for granted.

Yes, I’ve donated to charities in the past. It’s so easy to give someone a check or throw money or canned food into a collection basket or a red bucket. But that still keeps me removed from the real problem. I don’t see these people that are struggling, I just have faith that my donation will help someone, somewhere.

But how can I really, truly help with a problem if I never see it face-to-face?

I was done being removed.

But where could I start? My answer showed up in our church bulletin a few weeks later. One of the local food pantries was going to open for extra hours in the afternoon because they had so many people to serve and needed more help.

I was so nervous on my first day. I carefully planned what to wear. I have to dress up for work but didn’t want to go dressed up in my fancy work clothes since I was going straight from work, so I packed jeans and tennis shoes. I will never forget watching Ellen this summer and seeing Fergie sitting there as a guest, telling all of the TV audience to give to a certain charity (I don’t remember which) — but what I do remember is that she had so much sparkling jewelry on that it was distracting. So much that I was put off by her appeal. Who goes on television dripping with expensive jewels and tells other people they should donate money? Couldn’t she donate one of those rings? Or her necklace? Don’t get me wrong – it was great that she was giving light to the topic, but being a little more humble while doing it would go a long way. I was not going to be a Fergie.

Once I got there, my fears were put to rest immediately. The ladies who were volunteering that afternoon were so nice and put me right to work — I didn’t have time to be nervous. They showed me how to help people shop for food, how many of each item each person could get, and everything I’d need to know. I felt horrible when I was helping one lady and told her it was my first day. I said “You probably know this stuff better than I do!” UGH! I didn’t mean to imply that she had been there more than once and I felt horrible that those words came out of my mouth and sounded like that’s what I meant. Luckily she was nice, smiled, and kept looking for her food. I beat myself up for a week after that one. But besides that, the first day went great and I felt so much better when I left. Not better physically, but my heart felt better. Bigger.

That was a few months ago. I’ve been back to volunteer almost every week since then (minus a few weeks when I was too sick to get there). Tuesday afternoons have since become my favorite time of the week.

We hear so much about “entitled” people from critics hiding in their homes, behind their keyboards but I’ve seen so little of that. Most of the people I’ve helped have been genuinely grateful and not only that, happy. They’re not embarrassed, they don’t let pride get in their way, and are grateful for what they do have. I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve seen grown men cry. I’ve seen the volunteers chip in for cab fair for a man who came on the bus, could barely breathe or walk, not knowing there wouldn’t be a return bus to pick him up for another two hours. I’ve held sweet babies who need food and diapers and I’ve helped people fill out their paperwork who have hands too crippled to write. Last week we had a donation of boxes and boxes of brand new children’s winter coats. Anyone who came in and had children left with not only food, but a warm coat for each of them. It does wonders for your heart.

I am no longer removed and it has made me a different person. I no longer take anything for granted. I’m not posting photos of the gifts under our tree on Facebook this year (nor will I again) because I’ve seen far too many people who have nothing to give and nothing to receive.

Don’t spend another day taking your blessings for granted. We all have them. You just need to know where to look and not take what you have for granted. And this Christmas, or even for 2015, figure out a way to be the change. I promise it will also change you — in the best way possible.

Processing…

I’m writing this post from a hotel in Cleveland. I woke up at 5:15 and haven’t been able to go back to sleep.

Sure, one of the reasons is probably that the bed is too soft (seriously – since when would that be a problem?) but the other bigger problem is the huge info dump my brain is trying to process after this weekend.

I’m here because I attended the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference and there was so much good/useful/fantastic information thrown at me that I think my brain is refusing to shut down until it goes over (and over!) every single detail. Doesn’t help with the whole sleep issue.

These conferences are so valuable. It’s an opportunity to improve your craft. It’s an opportunity to network. It’s an opportunity to get renewed, refreshed, and re-energized to do what you do best.

Write.

If you ever get a chance to go to one – take that chance. You won’t regret it.

Life After Funk

Wow. That was a long road.
I knew recovery would take a while but I never imagined it would take 4 months.
I also assumed my recovery would be purely physical.
Wrong again.
Sometimes I think the mental recovery was worse.

But the good news is, I finally feel like I’m back.
I haven’t had to take a pill for a week (not even an Advil!) and while I have a few little tweaks of pain here and there, it’s nothing that I can’t handle. And since there is no more pain when I walk, I walk better. I’m still a little slow because I’m still figuring out how to walk the right way, but that’s OK. I’ll get faster. Until then, feel free to enjoy a leisurely stroll with me while we chat.

The best part is that I’ve started writing again.
I wrote some when I was laid up on the couch this summer, but I can’t write on a couch. I’m a sit-at-a-desk-while-I-write kind of girl which was hard to do with a huge cast covering my leg.

I got into a not-writing funk. I floundered on what to work on, flip-flopping to a different project every week, frustrated that the words weren’t flowing like they used to. Writing makes me happy, so without that I felt lost. I needed something to get me back on track.

First, I read Stephen King’s On Writing.
Hands down the best thing I could have read. I’m a huge SK fan so I’m kind of shocked I hadn’t read it before this, but he’s just the right person to give you a swift kick in the pants to make you put your fingers to the keys. (And make you laugh while you’re doing it) I’m sure the other parents in the school pickup line were wondering what I was on as I laughed uncontrollably behind the wheel.

This sentence from the book was exactly what I needed.
At the start of the road back I just tried to believe the people who said that things would get better if I gave time to do so.

I had stopped believing.

Another huge part in getting out of my funk was going to the Northern Ohio SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Cleveland last weekend (will try to post a re-cap sometime this week). If you ever need to be inspired, sign up for an SCBWI Conference. I’m lucky to have one so closely available to me and it did the trick.

And now I’m signing off to write.
It feels so good to be back.

hollyBoots

For the Love of Boots

From the moment I could walk, I’ve loved boots. I think my first pair were white go-go boots in the 70’s. The 80’s had me doing my best Wonder Woman imitation (—> see photo on right).

But that’s when I could walk without my braces. Believe me when I tell you I’ve tried my hardest to find a pair that I can wrangle those braces into, but it’s pretty much impossible. To put on a pair of boots you have to flex your foot and my braces were not built to flex. Major bummer.

This week I suddenly needed a good, somewhat professional looking photo of myself to put on the Adams Literary website. My good friend, photographer and critique partner, Renee, was going to take me out Sunday to take some pictures for me. While seeing Oz with the fam on Saturday the thought occurred to me – I need to wear boots! Then I wouldn’t have to try to hide my leg braces, my silly tennis shoes, and I would look like a half-way normal person!

Even before the credits rolled I leaned over and whispered to Chad, “Can we stop at the shoe store on the way home?”At least in the dark theater I couldn’t see the weird look he probably gave me. But that’s why I love him so much. He knows I’m crazy and just goes with it.

Now, here’s the reality. I can’t walk without my braces anymore. My balance and my ankles are shot. But I was sure I needed a pair of boots anyway, even if I had to carry them with me to the shoot and put them on while I was sitting there. They would look cute, and isn’t that all that matters? No one would need to know I can’t really walk in them.

So Chad took the girls in the pet store next door to give me time and sanity to try some on. I tried so many on and I think I fell in love with each pair. But then I sat there, among the half-opened boxes of boots and realized something. I don’t need cute boots to be happy with who I am. I thought I’d moved past trying to pretend I’m someone that I’m not. But I guess everyone has their moments of weakness, including me. I wrapped them all back up and had them all back on the shelves before Chad and the girls came in. I walked out, not with new super-cute boots, and without a missing chunk of change from my bank account.

I am who I am, and no amount of fake boot wearing will ever be able to change that.
For now I’ll just dream of the day when someone will design some cute boots that fit over clunky leg braces. I haven’t see the pictures yet, but I know I’ll like them a lot more knowing that it’s the true me in them.

NEScontroller

My Crafty Husband

I love the things my hubby makes (yummy dinners, beautiful children, etc.). Check out Mr. Crafty’s new Christmas ornament he made to hang on our tree! He dug out an old NES controller (we no longer had the system), put in a hanger on the top and viola – instant ornament!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!

foot3

Oh yeah, about my feet.

September is Charcot-Marie-Tooth awareness month. And since most of my friends and family really have no idea what it is that’s wrong with me (OK, well, one of the things!) I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a little about CMT.

Charcot, Marie, and Tooth were the three scientists who discovered the disease, which is why it is called what it is. The disease has nothing to do with my teeth. We call it CMT because it’s shorter and easier to say/remember. In this case, CMT does not stand for Country Music Television (although as much as I can’t stand country music, I’m kind of glad I don’t have that CMT!)

Here’s the low down of what it does and a really quick health lesson (because I nearly flunked Health class in high school – go figure.) Your brain sends signals to your nerves to move your muscles. CMT affects the nerves in your extremities and makes them malfunction. So when my brain sends a signal to my brain and says “Hey, you’re walking now, move that right foot!”, sometimes my nerve gets it and does nothing. It doesn’t make the muscle move even though my brain told it to. You can imagine the problem that creates. I think my foot is taking a step forward, and maybe my leg moves like it should, but my foot muscles don’t move because it didn’t get the memo. And I fall down. Super-fun, right? It also causes all kinds of pain and muscle cramps. Last night my arms and legs were cramping horribly so I just took lots of Advil and went to bed.

So because those muscles don’t get the workout they need, they atrophy and cause my arms and legs to deform. My feet are pretty bad off. They’ve turned in at the ankles, and my ankles are really weak. So far my hands haven’t deformed but are just very weak. It doesn’t mean they won’t atrophy eventually, but for now they’re straight. When I was first diagnosed 11 years ago their solution for me was to break all of the bones in both of my feet and fuse them all back together the right way. I know a few people who have had this done and love that they did. I also know a few people who’ve had this done that hate that they did. For me, just the thought makes me get all queasy so I’ll pass on that one. Instead I wear leg braces up to the knee so that I don’t fall down. They are like plastic miracles for me! I still can’t run, but I don’t have to worry about falling for the most part. And they kind of push my feet back to the way they *should* be. Sure, I can only wear New Balance tennis shoes (so if you see me in a dress and tennis shoes, I’m not trying to make a fashion statement – promise!)

And don’t worry, it’s nothing you can catch. It was passed down to me from my dad, and his dad, and so on and so forth. They didn’t have it nearly as bad as I do, I guess I just got lucky. 🙂 Could I pass it on to my girls? Maybe I already have. There’s a 50/50 chance. But the good thing is that it doesn’t get progressively worse with each generation, so even if they do end up having it – they may never show a sign of it. There’s no cure and no treatment. Yet. I keep hoping that someday there will be, but the reality is that CMT is somewhat rare and there just isn’t the funding available to make huge medical breakthroughs.

My reality is this. I’m a half-glass-full kind of girl. I’m not sad (except when the pain is really bad), and I do believe God had a reason for giving me this. Haven’t quite figured out what that is yet, but I know it’s there. I’ve figured out that stress is BAD for it, so I sold my high-stress company and got a low-stress job. I try really hard to stay away from stressful situations. And the best part is that I have THE most unbelievably loving family and group of friends who love me and support me – I couldn’t ask for anything more in life. I’m a happy girl and life is good, always.

UPDATE: September 2014
I changed my mind. Last summer I had my worst (left) foot completely rebuilt. It was a 9-hour surgery. Now, a year later, I’m glad I did. The difference in my foot is amazing and I couldn’t be happier with it. Maybe someday I’ll get up the guts to fix the other one. 😉

flowers

Lucky Girl

What a lucky girl I am!

I threaten hubby within an inch of his life not to buy me flowers (why waste money on something that’s going to die?), but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get them.
When my mom showed up at my door yesterday I was blown away with this gorgeous, beautiful bouquet of flowers she had for me. The card read “You are such a good mom and a hard worker. Hope you have a great day.” Well, how could I not have a great day looking at and smelling these all day?
I’ve started another revision on Sophia, which after revising it so much already I would normally groan, but I now know exactly what it needs and can’t wait to make it so much better! SO EXCITED! Off to write – hope you have a great day too!