Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lessons learned in 2013

It may be cliched, but looking back on a year when it comes to an end to see what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned is actually a pretty good thing to do. Every time a year comes to an end, I have to ask myself, what did I manage to do this year? How have I made life better? What do I still need to do? How can I grow in the new year? What kind of things did I fail to do this year that I could try to do again in the next?

One question I usually did not ask myself, though, was this: What kind of lessons have I learned this year?

This, above all else, is an important question to ask. And I’ve certainly learned a few lessons this year. They are lessons that are definitely going to have an impact on certain decisions I’ll be making in the new year.

I have learned: It’s important to take care of myself. This year, I certainly DID NOT take care of myself. I have been sad and depressed for quite some time, and I know this sadness comes from certain choices that I regret. But I let that sadness, regret, anger at myself and the depression get to be too bad and I just didn’t take care of myself that well this year. I hated myself and it got to where I wished I was dead. That is how bad it was. So it is a good thing that I had this cancer scare. It made me wake up and realize that I was on a path of self-destruction. I had to be kinder to myself and stop beating myself up over the past. I have to learn to forgive myself and be my own best friend. So I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, physically and psychologically. I need to get rid of bad habits and welcome things that will make me a better person. (So far, I have managed to get rid of one bad habit and I feel pretty good about that!)

I have learned: Sometimes we have to be a little bit selfish to get what we want in life. I know I have allowed other people to influence my choices and have too much control over decisions I have made. It’s time to put a stop to that! I can’t let others decide what I should do with my body and my life. Because they are MY body and MY life! I’m the one who has to live it! So I really think it’s time to step back and just be a little bit selfish about certain choices in my life. I need to do that in a really big way. There are some things I KNOW I want in my life, and some people, too. Why keep putting things off? Why keep tolerating being without certain people we WANT in our lives? And those we don’t want? It just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. And here again we have that cancer scare playing a role. I just realized, you know, why keep putting these things off? Why keep WAITING? Why keep HOPING? Just do it now. All we have is right now, and if it takes being selfish to go after something, then we gotta be selfish. I know certain people may not agree with what I want to do next year and a lot of people won’t like it. But I really think it’s time for me to get back on course for Dawn’s Life, and not other people’s life. People are gonna say what people are gonna say. What’s important is that I keep doing what I WANT to be doing with my life.

I have learned: Change is good. I saw a change in how I was handling my being an author. I also became a publisher. I was scared to death to get into publishing, but I did it and, thanks to the help of my friends along the way, it was a success. And I couldn’t be happier that I got past that fear and got to where I am now. I definitely feel more confident when it comes to publishing books, and that’s going to help a lot given what I plan to do next year. I was scared at first, but I got over that fear and made it. I also saw change in how I managed things with books being self-pubbed this year. I like that change, too.

I have learned: We need to hold onto the people who matter. Hold onto the people who actually care. I have been paying close attention to the people in my life who have been there and who have not. The people who wouldn’t give me the time of day and those who would drop everything to help. I have to be very careful and very selective of who I allow to be in my circle. Who I allow to be my friend. I have been hurt too many times by people I thought I could trust, or was supposed to be able to trust. I have had too many so-called “friends” treat me like crap and only remember me when they needed something. Or people who are judgmental, dishonest and not trustworthy. No more of that! I can’t keep tolerating the fake friends, the people who have thrown potshots my way and the people who constantly have me on “Ignore.” Same goes for people who take my presence for granted. Because, you know what? You’re either for real, or you’re not. And I have noticed the people in my life who are For Real. The ones who are there, who actually talk to me, the ones who call me their friend and act like it. I am not going to waste my time on fake friends or fake people anymore. Life is too short and we need to keep the people who matter within arm’s reach while we live it.

I have learned: We can’t live life indoors. There is too much of the whole wide world out there just waiting for us to explore it! Part of the reason why I stayed home whenever possible was because I was too comfortable being at home. And I’m not comfortable anymore. Yes, I know I have a senior dog with failing health who does not have much time left, but I also know I just gotta get Out There some more. I need to go ride a bike, go hiking, go fishing, take long walks and just Get. Outside. We are not meant to live our lives holed up in our homes and constantly glued to our computers or TVs. We are meant to get out there into the world and live life! Otherwise, how will we meet people? How will we see this beautiful world God created? How will we find out where that path goes? We won’t unless we actually get outside and take that path or travel that road. I know I have a lot going on that requires time at the computer, but I am working something out where I won’t be at the computer 8-10 hours every day 365 days a year. No more of that! It’s time to get out of the house more often and see all the stuff that’s out there. This is one valuable lesson I have learned this year and this lesson, like the others, will definitely have an impact on changes I’ll be making in the new year.

Here’s to a better, happier and wiser 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

I accomplished my 2013 reading challenge!

“Reading challenge.” Until the beginning of this year, I had not heard of such a thing. Apparently, some people give themselves a reading challenge – a challenge that involves reading in some way. One woman challenged herself to read at least one book from every country in one year. Another wrote about how she challenged herself to read 100 books in one year. I thought that was an interesting challenge so I decided that would be my reading challenge for this year. (I am not entirely sure if a reading challenge should last for the duration of one year, but those are the ones that I learned about.)

So, yes, my reading challenge for 2013 was to read 100 books in 1 year. I figured that, in order to do this, I had to set up a few guidelines:

1. I had to read at least 10 books a month – and I know that’s 120 books, but if I raised the bar high from the beginning and had that expectation for myself, I knew I’d get a good number of books in at the beginning.

2. I also decided that I’d read any kind of book: A print book or an ebook, as long as it was an actual “book” that was published. A book is a book, whether it’s print or electronic and regardless of length.

3. The books for this challenge had to be books I was reading for the first time. I often read to my son, and of course he has favorites he wants me to read to him time and again. The books I had not read yet, however, that I did read to my son would be included.

With these guidelines in place, I got started. I guess it helped that I resigned from my job early this year; that certainly gave me more time to read. (I recently got a part-time gig and, next year, I’ll be working a full-time job.) So time to read was not an issue. I often read at least two different books every day – usually nonfiction and fiction – so that helped me get through more books, too.

But, eventually, this challenge got to be frustrating. Of course, I was happy I was reading so much. I even glorified in it. But I eventually grew restless and started disliking this challenge, because the reading took me away from so many other things I could’ve been doing. Of course I believe it’s important to read every day, at least for 30 minutes, and that’s a habit I try to instill in my children. But sometimes I was reading for HOURS just so I could meet my “two books a week” quota.

I kept at it, though, and by the summer, I realized I had read quite a lot of books. At that point, I realized it was okay to slow down on the reading, and I didn’t try to finish two books every week after that. I was doing pretty good in the numbers so I allowed myself to relax. Heck, sometimes I even read one book in a single day! So I was looking good so far. Even so, I kept my eye on those numbers as the months passed.

If I did not finish reading a book, I did not include it. If it was a book I just skimmed through, I did not include it. But I did include everything else, even books I read for research.

I also noticed that I didn’t read ebooks as fast as I would have liked to. I used to speed through ebooks but, nowadays, not so much. I just don't like staring at the screen for too long. I was just fine reading pages in a book for hours, but not words on the screen for hours. It just got to be a real slowdown for me. But I hope to come up with some kind of system to fix that, because I do review ebooks from time to time. (I don’t have an e-reader, so I read all ebooks on the one PC we have.)

So here we are at the end of the year and I’m happy to report that I did manage to read 100 books in 1 year. In fact, I read 104. I met my reading challenge for 2013! Hooray!

My reading challenge for 2014 is to read a new book every month. Just one. I have a lot going on next year and will not be able to spend as much time reading as I did this year, but I will still read for one hour every day (30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night) and just make sure I grab a 2014 title to read every month. One, though. Just one. That particular reading challenge is one I’m looking forward to accomplishing next.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A double take

I have been reading I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin (amazing book, by the way!). I chose this book because, myself being deaf, Marlee has always been someone I have looked up to and admired. So I thought it was time to learn a little more about her life! There is a lot of stuff in this book I could relate to, like criticism she has received from the deaf community over certain choices she has made. I, too, have received criticism from deaf readers because of certain things I have written – but that’s for a whole ‘nother blog post! (Side note: Hold on to the good things people say. That’s what I do!)

Anyway. There is a story in this book about how, once on the set of a TV show, Marlee was chatting with a police officer who was guarding the set. She thought this man was another officer she had befriended, and later she finds out that this particular officer was NOT her friend, but a friend of his who looked like him! And the whole time, she had been referring to him by the other guy’s name. Oh, wow. Talk about embarrassing! LOL (it’s interesting those two were friends. She included a picture of them in the book, and I couldn’t get over how much those guys looked alike!)

This reminded me of how this has happened in my life, too. I once had a friend who had a friend that looked EXACTLY like him. They even sometimes wore the same glasses! Once, I even got them mixed up. I was trying to say hi to my friend one day and this dude was not responding. I was standing there thinking, ‘Grr! Why is he IGNORING me??’ Then I found out from my actual friend that that had not been him, but his friend! LOL

Recently, I saw a woman who I thought was a friend. She was even in the same van! I found out it was not her later on when I texted my friend about it and learned she had NOT been at that place at that time. How weird! They looked exactly alike and even drove the same van!

It’s strange how this happens. Usually, if there is a double, then it’s assumed the other person is an “evil twin” or a doppelganger. (If you want to read more about doppelgangers, check this out.)

This also reminds me of the novel I wrote, which is the one I will be fixing up next year to send out. In this story, my character looks exactly like someone murdered by a deranged husband, and after their paths cross, he thinks she is her and that he didn’t exactly leave her for dead as he thought he did.

This is such a strange and interesting thing that happens. It is kind of funny, too. This kind of thing has not actually happened with me, but I do have a story of someone who had my name. One day I got a call on my TTY from this lady who swore she knew me. She gave my full name and my phone number – the same she’d been given at a grocery store when she had “met” me. I knew I didn’t know her, but I still agreed to meet with her because I was curious about this person who claimed to be me. My sister went with me when we met her, and she took one look at me and said, “You’re not the Dawn I met.” Well, we had a nice dinner and talked about the “fake me” she had met. I had not been at that store at that time and I told her for certain that had not been me. The mystery of someone using my name and giving out my phone number had never been solved (hm, maybe THAT will be a story idea someday!) but thankfully it did not happen again. I never saw that woman again after that night, unfortunately – I think she was too weirded out by what happened – but it was a pleasant meeting and I’m glad nothing bad happened.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A very blessed Christmas

I was dreading the approach of Christmas, let alone Christmas Eve. Sure, we were all excited about Christmas coming up, but it’s so hard to get through the holidays with my mom being gone. I keep telling myself that I can STILL “talk” to my mom on Christmas; it’ll just have to be with my heart. But that doesn’t make it any easier. And the fact that I had an emotional breakdown over the weekend and just cried my heart out because I miss my mom so much did not help, either.

But here we are, at Christmas. And I’ve managed okay so far. It has definitely been a big help to have some wonderful friends around who have offered comfort and support. I’m so glad we got to see them in the days leading up to Christmas. Seeing these dear friends again just warmed my heart and it was good to have a shoulder to lean on, too. They are awesome friends and I am so grateful they are in our lives!

I ended up waking up at 4 a.m. today. I ALWAYS wake up first on Christmas, which is a good thing because I usually have extra little gifties to slip into stockings. But the reason why I woke up so early was because I was really thirsty. I got up to get a glass of water, let the dog out and to put the stocking stuffers into their designated stockings. After all that, I went back to bed, hoping to get some more sleep. But a sadness came over my heart as I lied in my darkened bedroom. I whispered to the darkness, “Merry Christmas, Mom.” I stayed still just for a bit, thinking of how much I wished I could hug her, then just as I looked down, I was surprised to see the back of someone walking past my open door! At first, I thought it was Jennifer, because this was a female with short brown hair, but the thing of it was ... this “person” was all white and transparent! A lit-up kind of person! Like an angel.

No way, I thought. It’s Jennifer. Jennifer is awake. That’s it.

I climbed out of bed and walked out of my room. I hurriedly went through the hall and saw no one in the family or living room. I went through the kitchen, the entry way and the other rooms. No one was there.

I went back to bed, thinking this over. Had I really just seen what I thought I’d seen? And had it been who I thought it was?

Well, I liked to think so. That was a nice thought.

Eventually, I did go back to sleep. I had a very disturbing dream, though. I dreamed I walked out to the Christmas tree and saw a woman’s face in one of the ornaments. Her face was very transparent, almost like a ghost. She had short light-colored hair. The image faded then I was back in my room. I was in bed trying to sleep but a strange sensation came over me that kept shaking me. Like something was possessing me. When I awoke from that dream, I saw a red bar on my wall.

Now, I must confess, I have been nervous about the Christmas tree suddenly catching on fire the whole time it’s been there. So I was alarmed when I saw that red light on my wall, thinking that was a reflection from a fire down the hallway! I raced out of my room to look around the house but, thankfully, there was no fire. Phew! Then I thought maybe there was a fire at my neighbor’s house. I opened the blinds to look out the window, but no, no fire! I was relieved but really puzzled. I went back to bed, back to sleep.

When I awoke again, I decided I’d gotten enough sleep so I got out of bed for good. And, wouldn’t you know, that was the same time Jesse woke up! We wished each other a Merry Christmas then woke Jennifer up. Then we woke their father up. We all trudged out to the living room (well, Jesse RAN out to the living room!), sat down and decided who would play Santa this year. That decision made, we all proceeded to open our gifts.

If I had any ounce of sadness left, it disappeared as I watched my children open their gifts. There was just so much joy and happiness among us all during that time. We were all excited and happy with our gifts. Jesse got a new bike and Jennifer got a bunch of Doctor Who stuff. I got an espresso machine, JCPenney gift card, chocolates, a wolf picture, new purse and the movie Argo. I was bummed that I didn't get any books or a gift card for books, but later I got free ebooks via Smashwords and that made me happy. Thank you, Smashwords!

After the gift thing and thanking people for our gifts, I made breakfast of bacon and cinnamon rolls. Then I took Jesse next door to give his friend a Christmas gift as well as a tin of cookies to our friends. After that, Jennifer left with her dad to hand out cookies she baked for the homeless.

Last night, Jen and her dad baked a cake for our Christmas dessert, and it’s back to the kitchen for me to make our Christmas dinner of ham, potatoes, corn and dinner rolls. We can’t wait to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special tonight, and I’ll be drinking a delicious espresso while I watch it.

Today turned out to be a good one, filled with family, friends and a little bit of Christmas magic. I am also glad my 20-year-old Chihuahua was able to spend just one more Christmas with us.

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A scary visit to Home Depot

For the past couple of weeks, we have been working on getting all the presents for everybody on our lists as well as all the cards sent out. (I’m terrible at getting Christmas cards out early!) For some time, Jennifer could not decide on what to get her dad for Christmas. Finally, last night, she figured out what she wanted to get him, and this particular thing is at Home Depot. So I told her I would take her to get it the next day.

We did not get out to Home Depot until after I was done babysitting today. We had some other things to do before I had to pick Jesse up from the preschool he was visiting today, so it was just as well.

When we got to Home Depot, both Jennifer and I noticed a swarm of seagulls flying overhead – right where we were in the parking lot!! It was really strange and kinda scary. When I parked the car, we sat there watching them fly in circles over us.

“What the heck?” I observed. I tried NOT to remember that Hitchcock movie, The Birds.

“They’re watching us!” Jennifer said with alarm. I didn’t entirely believe her but it was weird how they just stayed right above us. I started to wish there was some way for me to tell those birds, “WE DON’T HAVE FOOD!”

Eventually, I was about to shrug it off, joking that I hope they didn't poop on us after we got out of the car (wow, flashbacks to when I went to a high school in Northern California) and was about to get out of the car.

Jennifer, however, would NOT get out!

She encouraged me to park closer to the store so we could have a short run to get inside.

I parked in a closer spot and she said, “Closer! Closer!”

I moved closer still.

“Closer! Closer!”

I felt ridiculous pulling in and out of parking spots but, thankfully, the third one was enough to satisfy Jennifer.

We jumped out of the car and hurried inside Home Depot. After we got what she wanted to buy her dad, she said she wanted to get him a stocking stuffer, too. So we walked around some more looking for something but she couldn’t find the Right Gift. Finally, she looked at me and, still holding the item she intended to gift, said, “Let’s go.”

She was about to turn to leave when I said, “We kinda need to pay for that.”

She noticed the item in her lands, laughed over her goof then walked with me to get in line. After we paid for our purchases, we started walking out of the store alongside a man pushing a cart. When we got to the security gate, Jennifer suddenly reacted with alarm and looked around. I took this to mean that maybe the alarm had gone off.

We realized the man next to us had set off the alarm. Then I turned and realized that a store employee had grabbed a ginormous stick and was coming towards us! I took one look at that stick and freaked out. It scared me! I wanted to grab Jennifer and run. But instead, since WE were not the ones to set off the alarm, I hurried her out of the stare while employees swarmed the man with the cart.

Once outside, Jennifer shook her head, smiling and said/signed, “Dude was trying to steal something.”

“Did you SEE that stick?” I cried. “I took one look at that thing, thought ‘geez!’ and wanted to run!”

Jennifer laughed then, after some thought, she said/signed, “If you did that, they might’ve thought it was you.”

We both laughed over THAT idea. Then I joked, “Well, I DO have roomy pockets.”

Well, we had a good laugh over it, but part of me was still a bit shakened over the whole thing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's time to focus on Christmas again

Sometimes in life, we go about our day like all is right with the world. We never expect for life to throw a curve ball or for something to come around and knock us off our feet. That’s pretty much what happened with me recently. For the past several weeks, I have been asking myself one question: Do I have cancer?

It started out with an annual exam gone wrong. It got worse when I had to go through a procedure and my doctor was saying she didn’t like what she saw. Unfortunately, my doctor did not explain much else. She did answer some questions, but she didn’t tell me exactly what was wrong. And I kind of needed to know exactly what was wrong. Thing of it is, there is a “cancer cloud” hanging over my family. My mom had cancer twice – though it was not cancer that took her life in the end. So we in the family are aware that cancer might strike one of us again. It did actually strike one of my sisters. Some of my cousins and aunts have had or are currently fighting some kind of cancer right now. So we know it is THERE.

And that’s why I was freaking out, stressing out and literally panicking over the possibility that I might have cancer.

What made the situation worse was that my doctor was NOT telling me anything. She was not communicating with me at all. She just said “you need to get this done” and that was it. I had to find out on my own what exactly it is I am dealing with, and the heck of it is that it took me a long time to figure it out. I didn’t know what to even look for!

And that was pretty stressful, right there. Every day I woke up I wondered, Am I going to get sick today? I started asking that question an awful lot when I finally learned what it is that I have and that it CAN lead to cancer. But apparently not anytime soon since my doctor thinks it's okay to have this procedure next month instead of next week. But I still wondered and it was a scary thought to carry around.

Thankfully, I have some wonderfully supportive and amazing friends and family who have been there for me during this whole mess. They are awesome! Everyone has been sharing their experiences, offering advice, being a shoulder to lean on and just being there to talk to about all this. I am so grateful to them all.

But still, I’ve been upset I wasn’t getting answers. I got a second opinion, as many suggested, and was told the same thing. I have considered getting another doctor because this lack of communication is not altogether something I am okay with. But, finally, in the end, I decided to make ONE last attempt to try to get through to my doctor and make my concerns known. I told them straight out today that I am not going to just blindly go through something just because the doctor says I should. I said I would NOT talk to a nurse – I’ve already talked to THREE nurses and they were NO HELP – and I was frustrated because everybody was just brushing off my concerns. But finally, they said, okay, you can come in and have a sit-down with the doctor. And I made sure this appointment was scheduled before the procedure my doctor wants me to go through.

It’s not that I don’t trust my doctor, I just want to know what’s going on. I also want to know why she isn’t telling me what’s going on. And since I had complications after the last medical procedure, I needed to make this VERY CLEAR to her that I don’t think I am healing properly and I am concerned that I’ll drop dead, or something.

So I feel that I really need to do this. I am glad I will be able to do this, but it won’t happen until after New Year’s.

That’s okay. I’m fine with that. I am so done with all of this stress, this worry and confusion. I don’t want that anymore. It’s Christmas, for God’s sakes! A time to be happy and not so stressed out.

So since I won’t see the doc until AFTER Christmas, I have decided I’ll just put this situation away for a little while. No more stress, no more worry. I’m going to just enjoy Christmas and have fun baking with my children, opening presents with my children and ringing in the new year with my children. I will just push all that business away for a while and start focusing on Christmas again.

It only comes once a year, you know.

This thing I am going through, this medical situation, it won’t really have anything happen until after Christmas. So I think I’m going to just get on with my life and live like there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and enjoy these wintry holidays.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Snow Days in a row

Last week, on Thursday, the weatherman on the local news was asking, “Will we get snow tomorrow?” And, boy, did we ever! The kids already had no school on Friday, but it ended up being a “snow day” for them. We sure got an awful lot of snow! I was not happy about all the snow, even though the kids went crazy over it. I was pretty much bummed because all that snow meant no driving for me! I cannot drive on snowy or icy streets very well, even if there are chains on the tires. It’s just not something I would be willing to do again. (I DID survive driving on the snow before, but I really just don’t want to do it.) So I have been stuck at home ever since Friday. GAH!!

But so have the kids. Monday was declared a Snow Day by the Eugene School District. So were Tuesday and today! THREE Snow Days in a row! Holy cow!

They did have good reason for it, though. While the snow finally stopped coming down, we have had some frigid temperatures. It has been VERY cold! The other day, for one hour, it was –7!! It’s been icy and very chilly outside. There have been people riding their snow vehicles and even their skis on the street! And, of course, kids being pulled on sleds and toboggans.

So, yes, we are trying to just focus on the happy side of this wintry weather. Jesse LOVES playing in the snow; Jennifer is more interested in just trekking around through it in the backyard. We have been enjoying the Snow Days by watching Christmas movies, playing games and having some family time. Jennifer has even started writing another book! Miraculously, I have also still managed to find time to write. I am working on two books and I’m almost finished with both of them. Yay!

Still, the kids miss school. They are NOT happy they can’t be at school. They LIKE school! And if it was possible for me to drive them, they’d be at my friend’s preschool or even “snow day activities” planned in the city.

And while I have taken advantage of Snow Days by watching movies late at night, sleeping in until 8 and staying in my jammies until 11, I also miss the structure of a schedule on school days. And I miss getting out of the house. I DO go outside some of the time but hurry back in when the cold gets to be too much.

Up until now, we have been informed if the next day will be a Snow Day, but we won’t find out if we’re in for a 4th Snow Day until tomorrow morning. Next week is the last week of school the kids have until Winter Break and I’m just wondering if there will be any other days of this week they’ll be in school, too. If the snow is still here by tomorrow morning, I probably won’t drive them to the school or bus stop but will still make arrangements to send them off if tomorrow is indeed a day for the kids to be back in school.