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Just Write

As I try to talk myself into making the time (when there is little to be had) and doing my damnedest to write and send in my first two magazine submissions this week, this advice from the phenomenal author Anne Lamott is timely and inspiring.

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

-Anne Lamott

Thank you Anne! I begin writing tomorrow.

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“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

The Dalai Lama has an applicable wise statement for all possible feelings and conditions. I try to remember this one. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. ” Today I underwent the most painful procedure for my nerve disorder. I imagine the flawed brain surgery was much worse, but I was blessedly asleep!

I knew this nerve block was going to be different, and more intense, after catching site of the specialized room my pain doctor had set up for this procedure on my previous visit. The room contained a large, white C-Shaped machine that would have looked perfectly normal floating through the solar system- not as something I had to lay under. It turned out not to be a traveling pain relieving space pod for astronauts, but a huge, expensive x-ray machine. This is also the first nerve block I’ve had in the past 3 years, where the medical assistant insisted I take something to calm me and ease my anxiety shortly beforehand.

After laying still on the exam table under Big C The X-ray Machine, and being instructed not to swallow, the pain doctor took numerous x-rays of my spinal vertebrae. From reading about the procedure I learned they do so to make the anesthesia and following nerve blocks are inserted in the stellate ganglion nerves, rather than ram up against bone. The doctor painted my neck with iodine, and then injected anesthesia into several spots. Not great, but not awful. He said I’d feel some pressure- a gross understatement- and then injected at least 8 stellate ganglion nerve blocks into the front of my neck.

Initially it was fascinating to look at the x-rays on the screen behind me, which I could see upside down as I bared my neck for the injections. Big  C lost it’s appeal after I watched the first needle slide into my neck. I lost track after eight nerve blocks, done in what felt like a connect the dots fashion. The two injections in the center of my neck hurt badly enough to make me cry, and barely suppress a scream. I truly hope this helps, as they expect me back in 3 weeks, and again in 6 weeks.

One good thing is that the pain specialist who performed this procedure is one of the doctors listed on the Medtronic site, the company that manufactures opioid pain pumps, which one of the physicians in Pittsburgh recommended as the best course of action for my never-ending pain. When I asked the pain doctor about this today, I was told his patients usually receive more pain relief from the series of stellate ganglion nerve blocks than those that he implants a pain pump into. I hurt badly now, but may begin experiencing some pain relief tomorrow. After 3 years of nonstop pain, that would be a miracle.

I know that many of you are suffering much worse than I am. I apologize ahead of time for bitching about my pain when so many others are dealing with so much more. My thoughts are with all of the amazing individuals I know who fight their pain, rare disorders and diseases in silence, often with little or no support and love. Those who have cancer, which took the life of my beloved Grandma Mary and my mother’s second husband John- a man so caring, loving and intelligent, who’s life ended much too soon.

I am grateful to know so many people who refuse to let any disease or disorder stand in the way of living life. Those who have suffered so long, without a correct diagnoses, or simply a doctor that gives a damn who’s willing to listen to all the symptoms, everything that has and has not worked, and who will send you to the correct specialists who will help rather than ignore, belittle, suggest hysteria and bill for their complete lack of help or basic empathy. The women on Facebook who smile radiantly in ever photo or selfie they share, despite being between surgeries or in the emergency room, again. You are my inspiration- to get moving, play when I want to sleep, cook when I want to order pizza, and most importantly, spend every precious moment I can with my girls and family, even if I feel like crawling under the covers on the bed to cry in frustration for the immense pain and suffering being endured every minute, hour, day, week, month, by people who long ago deserved a break, and in no way deserve the cancer, autoimmune disorders, seizures, Lyme Disease and other debilitating physical and emotional pain. Yes, I do yell, “Why God!?” I’ve not received an answer. I get more solace and direction from the historical wisdom of Buddha and the truly wonderful, compassionate Dalai Lama.

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My Song

There is always at least one, usually more, songs that you hear and think, “Oh, my god! This was written about me, for me or to me.” Whether you have just starting dating a new person, and your heart beats with new passion and excitement, your body quivers just hearing their voice, or when they touch your face, gently stroking your cheek and neck before leaning in for a kiss.

Perhaps you’re ending a long relationship, and nearly every song you hear about heartbreak and the crippling despair that accompanies saying good-bye to the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with seems as though is was written just for you, for this one moment on time. There is one song that comes on as you drive your car, moving your belongings, maybe a dog and cat or two, or the most hard of all, your children, that makes you weep so hard you have to pull off the road because you’re sobbing so hard you can’t catch your breath. You make sounds you never knew were possible, the symphony of sorrow for all that has been lost. The lyrics and instrumental melody fades to a background noise, accentuating by your gasps, screams, and what feels like the complete physical act of your heart being torn to pieces.

There are songs that become linked in our memories to certain times and events. The first time you has sex. The first song you heard when you brought your first child home from from the hospital, where they were born the day before. There are other less dramatic instances. The CD  you listened to on repeat on a road trip through another state. The song that you always turn the volume up and sing along to, even if it’s the entire country’s favorite song as well, so you can be sure you’ll hear it ten more times today. It’s okay. You’re happy to listen to it over and over again. It’s even better to find the video on You Tube and see that the visions you had while hearing the lyrics were similar to what the artist was thinking. If this is the case, it becomes your song or your relationship’s song. Hearing it makes you smile no matter what, or it gives you comfort that you are not alone; you are not the first or last person to have felt this pain. What is your song? Is it poppy and popular? Dark and obscure? Happy, sorrowful, angry or loving? elliegoulding The amazing, talented and beautiful Ellie Goulding. She has three songs that I feel must have been written simply to put my emotions to lyrics.

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Angelina

This is a perfect, beautiful post written about my heroine and inspiration, Angelina Jolie. I’m thrilled that Joey-an amazing woman and incredible writer, found her way to my little corner of the world so that I could find hers. I look forward to more of Joey’s excellent posts!

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I was 17 when I became infatuated with Angelina Jolie. It was 2001 and Tomb Raider was about to come out. Hollywood, the media, tabloids, everything seemed a little different back then. It wasn’t so immediate around the clock. There was less internet and no social media. An half hour interview with the celebrity you liked still had to be scheduled on MTV and taped on VHS. Magazine clippings actually mattered. And I settled in to watch MTV At the Movies: Tomb Raider, and I met my spiritual soul mate. I did tape it, and I watched it over and over. It wasn’t just how beautiful she was, or the things she got to experience while filming Tomb Raider in Iceland and Cambodia; it was the tone of her voice when she got excited. It was how she talked about love and her husband Billy Bob Thornton. It was that…

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No Internet Panic

I make most of the money that keeps the bills paid online. Each morning starts the same. I try to decipher the scrawl I’ve written while half asleep, and struck with awesome blog post or new product to make. I also write a  lengthy to-do list for the following day each evening.  I turn on the computer, see if any of my writing submissions have been accepted, then check 10-30 sites to see if there is work to be had that day by writing product reviews, guest blogs, content writing, editing,proofreading, eBay or Amazon sales for myself or others or mystery shopping. This gives me my second to-do list. If there are new help wanted posts for mystery shopping the natural food store, writing about disabilities and odd disorders, parenting, frugal living, relationships, sharing recipes, tutorials for how to replace everything in your home and the products you use on your body with all natural, awesome DIY or soon- BFMP (buy from me please) I’ll send my resume, cover letter and writing samples. Then I wait.

Today, however the computer was either hacked or it decided that 7 day 8 hour workdays are too much to ask from a old machine. Regardless, I could not apply for writing projects. shops, or browse the many sites I check a couple times each day. Instead of doing something else on my list, say plant more medicinal herb seeds, sort through the family’s clothes, bag up the outgrown items and drop them at the thrift store down the road. I could have made one of the fifty vegan meals I want to create for my family. I could read, clean up the cluttered house. I didn’t do any of these things. For four hours I shut down the computer, turned it back on, cursed when I could get one link up for a site I’d like to submit an article to, only to have it change two seconds later to an error message.

In retrospect I wasted a lot of time today and accomplished very little. My family knows how much I hate the TV. If it were only my choice there would be no TV. Music on all day- absolutely. I realized how much time I spend sitting in front of the computer screen. Considering I have no paying writing gigs at the moment I am not working, though I keep searching. Unable to log on and go through my morning ritual of website visiting for work. I was completely lost. I am leery of addiction to technology. At what point does sitting in front of the computer screen become too much? I fear I already sit here much, much too often. I’m partially positive the minute I stop hustling for paid writing projects all of the gigs I’ve been watching, and waiting to have an opening will make their appearance online, and like the shooting star every else sees right when I turn my gaze to the ground I’ll be the one saying, belatedly, “What did I miss?”

How do you handle work/life balance if you work from home? How do you manage your time? Do you find it hard to step away from work if work is in the living room?

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How to Make Less Than McDonald’s Employees While Pursuing Your Writing Career

6908558900_554e26bc02_hI’ve been a professional editor for three years. I’ve written since I could write-so close to 30 years. As my family can vouch for, I carried all of my writing with me, from house, to duplex to mobile home, down the road, in the dead middle of the desert and to the center of the city. I treasured my writing. I can recall my first real diary, a pink padded pretty thing, into which I described my days as a young child. For some reason the only entry I recall was when I sat in the kitchen of my childhood home and wrote about the laborers building a porch on our house (an addition that was a must for playing outdoors on southern Arizona’s scorching summer days.)

I kept every paper, notebook, to-do list, planner, public school and college work I’d ever written. On a long dead computer I saved hundreds of angst-ridden horrible poetry while my first marriage fell apart. I knew it was awful. I was okay with that. It was mine.

I don’t have any of my writing any longer. The story of the lifetime of writing’s demise is too painful to write about. I have instead set myself to the task of writing more, this time as a paid freelance writer. I was, and still am a bookworm, used bookstore and library addict, with an eye for punctuation errors, misspelling and painfully awkward sentence structures. For some time working as an editor from home kept my family and I afloat. When that project ended, I dove head first into writing for the web. For those of you who have not visited the sites that cater to me and thousands of other wannabe writers, the best way I can think to describe it would be to think of eBay, run entirely opposite. Rather than people bidding for a coveted item, and letting the highest bidder win the prize, freelance writing, specifically the content mills where many get their first writing assignments, reward the lowest possible bidder. Some who post such ads don’t even pretend that this is a fair practice. Comments such as, “You must be willing to accept $1 for 1000 words” or, “Writers from India Only Wanted” are common. It’s a blanket statement, and one that I know has many exceptions, but on content mill sites it often is writers from India who will take the lowest pay and who will generally provide outstanding work for pennies.

This morning I was given a pretty basic assignment. It is one used by some clients to get good writing for free, but occasionally the required work is actually used to determine one’s skill in niche writing, or more often one’s ability to create SEO and keyword density heavy articles or posts. In this case I was given two hours to research apartments in a city in the south, and submit a 500 word article. I was thrilled to have work. I submitted my article, then waited for a response. The client pointed out two words that Microsoft Word had underlined-it was obvious the client had not actually read what I’d written, since their criticism was that I had made two grammar errors, when the underlined words were apartment complex names Word did not recognize. Okay, so my writing wasn’t actually being read. The painful part was the pay that was offered. I was told I would receive $0.4 for every 500 word article I wrote. Put another way, I would earn $0.0008 a word. Beginning writers with no experience ask, and should receive, at minimum several cents per word. Unfortunately there are a lot of starving writers, desperate to get their byline onto sites where, it is hoped their writing will be read and enjoyed. Some content mills do collect writing for “real” sites that get a fair amount of traffic. Others will dump your writing onto unknown parts of the web, and you’ll give up not only the right to have your name next to your writing, but the possibility of using it in your portfolio because once submitted they own your writing. This wouldn’t be so bad if your 500 word article ends up on a popular site along with your name, so that other potential clients can get in touch with you, but that’s not the way most of the well known sites for freelance writers operate.

Despite hours of bidding on projects that I’m well qualified for, on nearly every content mill site on the web (there are a ton) I’ve not been paid for writing since writing product descriptions for a teething necklace my client had listed on Amazon. It was easy work, and I was paid a fair amount. Since then, nothing. Instead of banging my head on the wall or getting into bidding wars for ridiculously low pay, I’m doing what I know best- studying and writing. I’ve turned to the Freelancer’s Union– an amazing group of freelancers who put together a site for writers to network and get health insurance. They are a phenomenal group of people, and the Hives-a creative twist on old school forums have a thriving, dynamic group of writers and other creatives sharing ideas, encouragements, leads and more. Lori I found the site http://beafreelanceblogger.com by the lovely, talented writer Sophie Lizard. I’ve read through all the posts on Carol Tice’s site makealivingwriting.com. The Renegade Writer, a site written by Diana Burrell (who has also written some great books on how to be a successful freelance writer) and Linda Formichelli, has inspired me to not say yes to every crummy offer that comes my way. Udemy has several free and low-cost courses I am working my way through, on topics such as copywriting, e-book writing and writing successful blog posts.

As soon as I have a spare $60 I will buy a new pair of glasses (I’ve held off for years, but being able to see and read is a rather important element of writing) and I’ll set up a site (and later a paid blog plus e-commerce store to sell my herbal remedies, potions and essential oil blends-yippee!) It seems obvious now that I’ve read many of the aforementioned sites, but a writer without a site that showcases his or her work, along with testimonials of your skills from prior clients, is like a library with no books. Yes, I am a writer. Really? Can I see some of your writing? Umm…? The right answer should be a link to your site, dedicated solely to your writing abilities, expertise and just as importantly, a way to show what type of niche writer you are. Without expertise, passion, education and authority on one or more topics you risk become a general writer-one that will take every $0.0008 a word assignment that comes their way. I’m not going to be that writer. I can’t be. I could earn more listening to recorded car dealerships calls, via humanatic.com, which pays several cents to listen to a call and mark whether it was routed to the correct employee or if the dealership’s inventory was discussed. I enjoy rating these calls, but I know no matter how long I work at it I will not receive better pay. I won’t accept that my writing is worth so little. What about you? Do you have a set rate? Have you written for content mills, or do you work for some now? I’d love to hear other writer’s stories.

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Away I Go

My sincere apologies to any remaining readers, who  patiently wait during my extended absences from blogging due to more health problems. Now it is possible I have hypothyroidism or I am pre-diabetic, Whatever the cause I feel like a zombie must days, stumbling through the day, traveling to each specialist to hear his or her opinions and what new tests or procedures will be done. An incredibly helpful list of thyroid problem symptoms shows I have over 200 of the 300 possible symptoms. Whatever it turns out to be, I simply want to know so I can do all in my power to get better. The past three years of non-stop neuralgia pain has been hell. For the past several months I have become chronically forgetful and so completely exhausted that it is only through sheer force of will that I create healthy nut butter to go with apple slices or plan how many vegan cheeses I could make with the ingredients in the pantry. Mostly I sit, and try to work. I have gained a terrifying large amount of weight. Since there are no physical symptoms to share many family and friends think I have returned to my introverted world of no phone calls. It’s actually that I have a hard time hearing from the neuralgia that I’ve mostly given up on trying to hear people on the other end of the phone. I arrived at the wrong time for my beloved Grandmother’s memorial. I have not been able to visit my Grandfather, from the other side of my family, at his nursing home since he had a seizure, because I am so often sick with a sinus or ear infection I must check in with at least one doctor before I visit any family that I mustn’t get ill. It’s heartbreaking. Many of my relatives do not understand that I keep my distance due to love and care for their health, not because I don’t want to see the people I love who are unwell.

All is not bad. My dear friend Liv is my personal medical researcher and ally. Without her knowledge my doctors would not have known what labs to run first. I hope I can repay her some day and help her health improve as well. I am discovering the amazing world of free online learning – even tackling subjects I know nothing about, such as HTML, Ruby in the Pails, coding. copy writing and SEO Optimization. I’ve included a list of many of the sites below. I am learning about the utterly amazing $35 mini computer- Raspberry Pi. I’m curious about GNOME, though I know nothing about code yet. Exploring Google Analytics and Ad Words has been fun. I’m an editorial intern for the next 13 weeks for a lovely new site http://quirkydaily.com/. It’s described as being for unconventional women. I’ve outwardly become more conventional, but my  soul is a rebel with dark and winding paths, leading me to and fro as I discover new things to love in life, even through the most miserable days of pain and fear.

If you are a freelancer like I am, you definitely want to check out https://www.freelancersunion.org/. They are a phenomenal resource for questions such as health insurance for freelancers, laws, how to find more work, and most recently user-created Hives which is a much-needed forum and network for the often isolated work of freelancers. Now you can interact, share ideas, ask and answer questions on freelancing work and have your own tribe of freelancers, I’m so excited about this new resource from the already very awesome Freelancers Union!

Lastly, this is a superb description of Neil Gaiman’s book, ‘Trigger Warning.’ An NPR writer describes it as, “They are confections, these stories. Like eating a delicious piece of chocolate and, halfway through, finding a finger in it.” That has made the list of my top ten favorite book descriptions of all time!

Be well, readers, Enjoy the list of many, many courses. The world is a crazy place, but it  can be a beautiful one if we keep our eyes open to wonder, our hearts open to love and our brains eager and curious to learn all we can so as to make our lives more interesting, perhaps more profitable and ultimately use our unique talents to make our interconnected world a better place for all.

http://www.quora.com/What-are-some-websites-similar-to-Coursera?share=

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