Whew! I could use a PA!

If you read my bio you’ll see I’m a global nomad and distance grandma. Well, October was my grand-mothering month. First, I flew to Regina (approx. 3 hour flight) to hang out with Magdalena and Baxter. The airport was relatively easy to get to (a straight shot on the 407 ETR) – grandpa dropped me off.

Just to give you a picture of my crazy lifestyle – we moved yet again after two years being back in Canada – this time way into the boonies or wop-wops as my Antipodes friends would say. We moved into the original crooked little house – yeah, the one from the nursery rhyme.

We’ve lived in over 13 houses (I lost count) in our 37 years of marriage and every house bar one was renovated by my clever Dearly Beloved. But with this one he found out he bit off more than he could chew especially since his ole bod argued with his head that he’s not 30 years old anymore!  Anyway, the crooked house sitting on 2.5 acres of gorgeous treed property needed a major make-over – new kitchen, new toilets, new hardwood in living and dining room. There was construction dust all over the place and in the midst of it all, I’m trying to get my book published!

The last straw was when a month ago, the well ran dry on top of all the chaos around me. That’s when I ran away from home to my friend Fay’s beautiful spa-style home near Cornwall, Ontario where we lived at one time.

Anyway, house-wise, things are taking shape nicely. Next week we get the gas furnace and hot water cylinder installed and then I can start cookin’ with gas again.

We just got back from our second grandparent hangout with the New York grand girls – Cecelia, Phoebe and Rory. To get there from the boonies we had to take a taxi, GO bus, GO train, 5 minute ferry ride to the downtown Toronto airport, one-hour flight to Newark, NJ where our son-in-law picked us up.

All this to say that’s why I haven’t had time to blog! However, I’m glad to report that everything’s on schedule with the memoir publishing. My first printing of the paperback shipment arrives on Tuesday in time for the launch on Saturday, November 2. Meanwhile, I’m working diligently on making the book available on Amazon.com and other media. Watch this space.

TEN WAYS TO COPE WITH CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is in a large part related to the process of writing my memoir. I’ve suffered from this malady for over twenty five years. This is an article I wrote for Triond.com several years ago that might just encourage anyone else out there suffering from this condreamstime_m_34447277dition. Here’s how I’ve learned to live with it:

1. Accept your illness.

It’s every bit as legitimate as any other debilitating illness.

Grieve the loss of the things you might never be able to do again like playing tennis, swimming for a workout, hiking, waking up refreshed in the morning, etc.  But then move on.  Recognise and express your feelings but don’t dwell on them.  Expressing your emotions in a journal is very cathartic and healing.

2. Listen to your body. 

The unpredictability of CFS can make life difficult to plan. Become aware of your energy level and work in accordance with it. Even as your condition improves, it’s important to pace yourself.  Balance activity with rest. Don’t overdo it and cause a relapse. If an energy-sapping event is unavoidable, then allow more down time afterwards. Rest may prevent or minimize flare-ups or reduce its intensity. It’s important to schedule rest into your day especially after a tiring activity.

3. Educate yourself about CFS

Well-meaning people will swear by every alternative medicine out there.  Educate yourself with latest information and treatments available for CFS.  Under your doctor’s supervision, experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

4. Accept your limitations

Unfortunately, society tends to judge us by what we do rather than who we are.  The limitations imposed by CFS may require us to shift our identities away from external accomplishments and create a lifestyle that accommodates our need for rest.  You may not be able to do the same job you did before or exercise as long or as hard.  Look for new ways to respond to what your body needs at every stage and live within the limits of the illness 

5. Keep track of your symptoms and progress

Monitor your symptoms and factors that determine any patterns.  Based on your conclusions, you can make effective decisions about your activities and environment.  Record keeping also allows you to see progress over time.

 6. Think positively and realistically

Don’t take a defeatist attitude. Find substitutes for the things you used to enjoy.  Focus on what you can do rather than on what you can no longer do.  You might not be able to walk for an hour but manage only 10 minutes. That’s fine. Praise yourself for that, because for you it is an achievement. Remember you are not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are enable by the abilities you have.

7. Cultivate supportive relationships

Spend time with people who are supportive, caring, understanding, encouraging and who can help in practical ways like heavy housework, meals and doctor’s visits.  Tune out uninformed and unsympathetic people who will tell you to push yourself and exercise more.  Join a support group with which you feel comfortable.

 8. Don’t compare

Don’t compare yourself with others – especially physically fit people your age.  It’s not realistic or fair, because they don’t have CFS.

9. Be patient with yourself

Understand that there is no magic cure for CFS. Recovery is a process. Don’t expect to see overnight changes; slow progress is still progress. Be compassionate with yourself.  Don’t put undue pressure on yourself about your limitations.  Self-criticism only increases stress that saps your energy.  Strive to nurture yourself, look for simple pleasures and enjoy them.

10. Cultivate a sense of humour

Don’t feel sorry for yourself and be a misery.  Try to be creative and see the humorous side of your situation. See your fatigue as your battery being flat and needing to recharge.  Regard rest as plugging yourself into a recharger. Download comedy from You Tube or other sources on the internet. Laughter is good for the soul.

 

 

TEN LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT MEMOIR WRITING

I began writing my life’s story about twenty years ago. It started out as a novel because I thought it was safer that way. When I asked my publisher friend to cast a critical eye over it, she said it needed to be a memoir. “Oh, I thought memoirs were attributed to famous people only,” I replied. No, everyone has a story to tell, the common denominator being survival – victory over struggle.  My friend set me on the right course. Here’s what I learned about this genre:

1. Read other authors’ memoirs

Some of my favourites, to name few, are The Color of Water, Too Many Mothers, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey, Angela’s Ashes. This is a great lesson is learning about the different styles of telling a story.

 2. Breathe life into the story

The memoir doesn’t have to follow a chronological order like an autobiography.  Write each incident independently and then shuffle them around like a jigsaw puzzle, linking them with good transitions when editing.

 3. Non-fiction characterization

Just like a novel, the memoir has real characters. You may have biased views of the people you’re portraying, but the goal is to present them as living, breathing, individuals, warts and all.

 4. Honesty

The memory can be tricky and prone to playing Chinese Whispers with your mind, especially when it comes to painful stuff you’re reluctant to confront. But you must, to give your work an authentic voice.

 5. Ownership

Depending on your family dynamics (and the thickness of your skin) it might be best to wait till some are deceased before you make your story public. Some may well contest what you write about.  But remember this is your memoir, your experience and your reality. 

 6. Be careful with dialogue:

You can’t always remember what someone said verbatim all those years ago but here’s where dialogue (and dialect) can add zing. Letting your characters tell parts of the story in their voice must be done with care. Make sure you as the narrator were present at the scene or when the character relates their perspective of that same scene. For instance, don’t say, “Eyes bulging with rage, Janet uttered through clenched teeth, ‘I’ll kill you,’” if you weren’t there witnessing the scene. But it’s okay to write, “According to Trudy, Janet’s eyes bulged with rage. She said through clenched teeth, “I’ll kill you.”

7. Don’t demand sympathy

When you’re writing for an audience, the purpose of your memoir must not be a therapy session or revenge exercise to garner sympathy from your readers. If it elicits negative emotions, it belongs in a diary for your eyes only.

 8. Write, edit, rewrite a gazillion times

Winston Churchill famously wrote, “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Editing and rewriting ad naseum, will drive you nuts, but it is a necessary evil.

 9. Research

You can’t rely solely rely on memory traveling down that lane. It doesn’t exist exclusively in a bubble. It is often intertwined with historical events, politics, culture and so forth. Since the memoir is non-fiction, research needs to be done for accuracy.

 10. Don’t work in isolation.

Join a writers’ group to get feedback from fellow scribes.