Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts

Hi folks. I'm finishing my Chicken by Chicken series for the month of October.  I write about my real challenges in the series. This week: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts. On top of depression, anxiety, partial blindness, and dylexia, I suffer from obesity. It is a daily battle. I hope my journey helps you find your way.

Yes, my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts. I have suffered from obesity since the birth of my third child. Gosh, you have no idea how difficult this is for me to write about.  It's just a piece of cake. It's just a doughnut. Don't eat it. Ah, but that cake and doughnut is about that moment of pleasure in a life that has not had so many pleasures.  Yes, I struggle with eating for emotional comfort. Like any addict, I hope to drown my sorrows in momentary pleasure. Obesity is a treatable disease and I'm working on it.

I don't have my obesity under control right now, but I haven't given up hope. I long to be well from this need to eat sugar. I live in a world that values the young and so called "beautiful." Thankfully, I have this fantastic understanding of beauty that keeps my chin up. My understanding was a gift. A photographer called Emerald England opened my eyes to the beauty of everything.  I was at my highest weight of my life when I met her. I will tell you right now. I am the kind of person that everyone calls a beautiful heart.

I'd hired Emerald to take a headshot of me for my website. I apologized to her for asking her to use her incredible skills on someone like me.  She looked at me in surprise and asked why.  I told her my truth. I'm fat, dumpy,and gnome-like, and she takes pictures of beautiful people. She looked stunned and told me without hesitation, you are going to find out today that you are beautiful. I laughed and said OK. She took the shots and I went my way. When I received the pictures, I couldn't breathe.

Indeed, Emerald was right. I was beautiful, not just my heart, but the outside of me. Ever since that photography session, everyday, I stand in front of a mirror and speak the real truth to myself. You are beautiful, Molly.  You have a health problem with food. It's complicated, but it doesn't lessen your beauty. I have an illness that has to be treated.  This illness does not make less of a human being.  That is someone else's problem.

So my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts.  I'm working on it.  Obesity is a tough disease to live with, but it is not an ugly-maker. You have value, whoever you are. Your flaws are part of your beauty. (My contemporary romance, Plumb Crazy, is really inspired by my journey with obesity. The main character, beautiful Elva, was another gift to me.) Here s a secret. Your so-called flaws will inspire your work if you let them.

I will back next week with my November series, Uplift.

Here is a doodle for you!

A quote for your pocket too!

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. Audrey Hepburn

I'm adding one of Emerald' England's pics, so you can see for yourself:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: A Glitch in the Software.

I'm continuing my Chicken by Chicken series. I am writing about my real challenges in hopes that my story will help you find your way.

This week I will chat about a glitch in the software of my brain. Along with the whole blind-in-one-eye thing, the anxiety thing, the depression thing, daily, I face dyslexia.

What is that like?

I have a hard time distinguishing left from right. I leave articles out of sentences.  I repeat letters in words. I leave letters out of words. I skip words. I don't put words in the right order. I flip bs, ds, ps, and qs. I love lists, but I really hate numbered lists. I thank God that we don't have to look up stuff in dictionaries manually any more! Also, I'm am freaking brilliant with math as long as calculation is not necessary.

I think you get it--glitch in that brain. .

I have hundreds of "work arounds" for this problem. I read my writing backwards. (Ah, yes, reading backwards or forward, right side up or upside down makes little difference to me.) I change fonts. I change the size of fonts. I change the color of fonts.  I only copy edit 5 or 6 words at a time. For math, I'm horrible at calculation but amazing at estimation. I solve every problem until I get the same answer three times.

ADVICE: If you are older, be sure to find some expert on dyslexia to offer you new ideas to deal with your glitches.

Dyslexia makes some easy things very difficult to me.  I have found it is useful to work with the problem and not against it. I am full of stories. Here is a fact. My stories have to be stronger than the average story because I have to get professionals to look past the fact this writing needs "more editing than most." So be it. I'd pit my imagination against, the best grammar any day. I also am one tenacious soul.

In the end, dylexia has brought me some wonderful gifts. The best one is empathy. I love chatting to kids with reading and writing problems. Reading is not about the AR points you can rack up. Writing isn't about the grammar.  Reading is about finding a secret door into new worlds. And writing is about expressing ideas that only you can express.  I can seriously say, "Don't let a string of teachers slapping Fs on your papers stop you from opening secret doors or sharing your ideas."

A deep truth--we are all hopelessly flawed.  Everyone has glitches in their software.  We are having to deal with "work arounds."  If you are full of stories, do your best work and know that is enough regardless of the challenges you face.

For fun check out my Chickens video.  If you would like the book, CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN, check it out here.
And now a doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Panic Attacks a Life

Hi folks, I'm writing my series called Chicken by Chicken. I spend this month writing the real, especially my challenges. This is a difficult post to write. My life hasn't been normal. It has been defined by panic.  Panic attacks. I don't remember my first attack, maybe I was 5 or 6. I estimate I have had more than a thousand panic attacks in my life. It is strange, even writing about panic attacks makes a nervous feeling in my chest, but I'm going to press on.

For years I didn't know what was going on. It was clear to me early on that a few specific thing send me into panic. I 'd lose my glasses, or go to the dentist, or be picked on at school. I also had panic attacks about lost keys, missed school assignments, and bank errors. Sometimes I have had random attacks about speaking in public and entering new situations. Some of my panic triggers make sense to me. Some do not. 

In my worst seasons, I had panic attacks that happened once or twice a day for months.  I have multiple panic attacks in a day. The first mega attack day was in the third grade. I had 10 panic attacks in a row. I lost my glasses and I started a new school. I still remember the waves of panic crashing over me.  I sat at my desk and struggled with attack after attack for the whole school day. I was moved into a special ed classroom. These mega attacks have hit me through the years.  It's always if I'm hit with many triggers.

I've seen things turn into panic triggers. Here is my worst: I sought help in my early twenties, but unfortunately, my mental health provider did something human and stupid by having an affair with a guy 25 years younger than her.  The guy was being torn apart by the relationship. The guy was also a very close friend of mine.  My mental health provider stopped my sessions, informing me that she was having the affair with my friend.  I was dropped and left without care. Yeah, and then speaking to a mental health provider became one of my triggers. Dang. 

Here is reality of my panic attacks. They hit like a tornado. The shortness of breath. Hyperventilation. My heart races. Trembles shake my body. Cold sweats and goosebumps follow.  I often throw up. Uncontrollable sobbing. Dizziness. Wailing. It doesn't make sense. It's terrifying to those around me. It's terrifying to me. 

To know me is to know my panic. Most of my attacks last about 20 to 30 minutes. It's taken years to build strategies to survive and to find drugs that actually help.  I sometimes think it is beyond ridiculous to think I'm going to be a writer. What if a panic attack blindsides me?  People who love me understand. Everyone else is not so forgiving. 
I wish I could say I got the health care I needed for this right off and it has been all good. That is not my story. It took time to get help because mental health workers cause me to panic. This is the first time in life I've ever had the moxie to even speak of this. I do have healthcare now. I do have good medication. I can still have a panic attack now and then, but it is down to maybe two a year and never multiple attacks. 

I have solid ways to deal with panic. When it comes, I recognize I'm having attack. I speak my mantra: "This is a panic attack. It is a problem that is not the problem. It cannot hurt me. It cannot stop me. It just chemicals poured into my body. My fight of flight system is messed up. The chemicals will dissipate and then I can deal with the real problem."  I breathe slowly, repeating the mantra, until the panic ends. 

I am a person with a rare gift for words, but I'm also this broken person, who has been broken for most of my life by panic.  I hope that my struggle helps you to be brave and face whatever you are facing. I hope that you say what you need to.   

I will be back next week with more of Chicken by Chicken.  

Here is a doodle. Girl in the Moon. 

Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears. Crissi Jami

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Life in the Blur

Hi, folks. Just a little peek at my life and times first: I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI conference in College Station, Texas. I met the brilliant Kimberly Willis Holt, who was as wonderful as I hoped she would be. I was so grateful to have the chance to meet such a fine writer, and she spoke to my soul, which is a thing so beyond words. I also had the chance to meet the Balzer and Bray editor, Kelsey Murphy, who shared great stuff about creating authentic characters, and was full of energy and the love of children's books. Feeling pretty blessed.

And now on to my Chicken by Chicken, where I talk about the real. We all face challenges. I am like everyone, I have challenges too. This week I'm going to talk about life in the blur. I was born with anisometropia amblyopia. Also known as lazy eye.  There is nothing wrong with my eye. The brain doesn't work. Currently there is a rosy outlook for this condition. For folks my age, not so much. I am legally blind in one eye. My other eye is corrected to 20/40.

I am extremely lucky that my good eye meets the threshold for driving without restriction. If I lose any more vision, I will no longer be able to drive at night or over the speed of 45 miles an hour. Having only one eye means I do not have stereoscopic vision. This makes me clumsy and I trip over things a lot  and bang into curbs with my car. I wish all curbs were painted a color. I also suck at sports that require you to hit a ball with a stick. I also sort of run into things randomly in a way that makes people roll their eyes.

I am posting two pictures so you can see what I see without my glasses.  The first one is what I can see with my bad eye. This is all it can ever see. The second one is what I can see with my good eye without correction.   As soon as my glasses are off I am blind.

This condition has shaped my life in a million ways. I trip on steps, fall off curbs, and run into pesky poles. I hate crowds because I bump into people and get scolded: "Are you blind?" This happens to me 3 or 4 times a week  and has happened for my whole life. Did the math. That is well over a hundred thousand times. If my glasses get knocked off for any reason,  I am blind. It annoys many people when I ask them to help me find my glasses. See pictures above. Could you find your glasses? Only if there is really, really good contrast, which there rarely is.

How we perceive the world defines us.  Anything that requires depth perception is just not in my wheel house. That means no diving, no flying planes, no playing video games, no driving motorboats, blah, blah, blah. I don't see things the way others do. The end. I am kind to myself. I accept my limitations and live on in the blur. We are all making do. A good thing to remember.
I will be back next week with more Chicken by Chicken.

Here is a doodle.
Finally a quote for your pocket. 

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. ― Moliere

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: The End of the Long Dark Night.

It's October and time for Chicken by Chicken. This is going to a long post. I will also post about my fun Halloween chicken project at the end. I've been doodling chickens for years. They cheer me up. This past year has needed a lot of cheer.

I joined the Presbyterian church recently, and have been reading The Book of Confessions. It's a book that affirms basic Christian truths. It's the response of this denomination of Christians when it has been blindsided with confusing and destructive ideas.

So here is my history. For the past year my poor noggin' failed me. It's connected to my work. Here is the deal: you fail much as a writer. It is part of the gig. But a dark cloud came over me last year and just would not budge. I never thought my work would fail. Church, yes. Friends and family, yes. Body, yes. Circumstances, yes. But never my work. A friend told me once that my work is what keeps me floating above it all. Well, my work sank, and I sank like a stone in a deep ocean.  I headed to the doctor and, yes, learned I was suffering from straight out major depression.

My thoughts were not about taking my life or even dying. This was all about failing at my life's work. Here's the deal, good writers get paid for their hard work. Their books sell. I put out a book as dear to me and with as much of my soul as I could on a page, PLUMB CRAZY, and the result was no one cared. I sold less than a hundred copies.The publishing house cancelled my contract. Then, I began submitting a book called PROFIT that I believed was the best thing I'd ever put to a page. I had one partial request, and the agent never got back to me. Everyone else ignored my submissions.

Here's the painful litany: Fool. Idiot. Stupid. These words branded me. All those people who said you were full of it for wanting to be a writer, they were right. No one cares. You can't write a single word that anyone cares about. All the people who have passed on you, they just didn't want you to know that your work is substandard and will not rise. You are irrelevant. The success of reaching others and making a difference in this world. The dream you would be able to make a modest living at this, over. You could have worked for real all these years and your kids wouldn't be pulling out loans to get college educations. You messed up your whole life and there are no do overs.  You chased a dream, and nada. You are a freaking failure. (It's okay, folks, these words don't burn into me like hot coals any more.)

This has been hard on so many levels. My mother suffered major depression when I was a teen. She didn't really get over it until I went to college.We had no healthcare when I was kid, so mom just suffered. Thankfully, that is not my story, but even good doctors can't wave a magic wand to make me better. It's been a long road this past year. It has been terrifying.

Depression feels like a band is tied around my waist, tight and painful. It's like being plated with metal armor that you can't take off. It like living in darkness. My art has suffered. I've thought about giving it up. Another choice mom made. Man, this has been a mess. Still, I continued to move forward, but my arms were heavy like led weights, my stomach ached, and my poor brain just sank into a pit. I cried more tears last year than I ever have in my life. I'd be standing in line at the grocery store and realize my face was wet with tears. Oh, why am I at the grocery story when every movement is agony?  I refused to stop functioning through this pain. I wiped the tears and moved to the next thing on the list. I wrote a lot of lists last year.

So here is the journey. I got clinical help, and I worked on seeking goodness. I had to let some things go. I cut down on the writing events. I shoved aside the novels for almost six months and worked on picture books. It was a struggle to write one word and that is the whole picture book game. I left the church I was attending. I'd been going there for almost five years and didn't really know anyone. This was no longer acceptable. I found a church that was more open to ideas and people with differences. I planted a tree.  I hugged the cats. I wrote my lists and drew my chickens.  Silly chickens make me laugh, and I love to laugh. I taught teens who to write through a summer program TEENS Publish at the library (no pay). Gosh, I loved those young writers, so full of passion and dreams. BTW, this was a totally unprofessional act, I know, but it brought some happiness to my heart and mind, and this year happiness has been worth more than all the gold in California.

I am coming out of the long dark night. I'm working again. The dips aren't as deep. Positive thoughts are back.  I still have a ways to go, but I am hopeful. Finally my  book  CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN  is for sale. I was so blessed by the silliness of this book. I hope that it blesses a few of you. I will be back next week with more confessions, chicken by chicken.

Here is a doodle for you.  It's a picture from the Chicken book.

A quote for your pocket: There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke. Vincent Van Gogh