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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Last four days of Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge!

Okay ... Four days in one, dead ahead. I need to close this month of health activist blogs, as I'll be off line for the next few days. So here we go:

Day 27 Five Challenges and Five Small Victories of dealing with an MS diagnosis and treatment:
  1. Very difficult to diagnosis
  2. Unknown individual prognosis
  3. Unknown cause of disease
  4. Painful, iffy treatment
  5. No Cure
Small Victories:
  1. Choosing healthier menu
  2. Losing weight
  3. Treating chronic depression
  4. Meeting others who share
  5. "But we look so good!"
Day 28  The First Time ... What was it like, and what did you learn?
The first time I had a mammogram redone and learned there was something that needed to be biopsied, and the biopsy had to be done two weeks later when the doctor returned, and first I'd have to meet with a surgeon to plan how to respond if the biopsy was positive ... and I told the surgeon I would not seek treatment of cancer, that I'd lost many friends despite horrendous treatments, and he asked me why I had had a mammogram if I didn't want to treat anything found? I thanked him for giving me permission to make my own decision rather than simply following everyone else's "recommendations."  The biopsy was negative.

Day 29  Tell a six sentence story:
Once upon a time there was a family doctor who treated her patients with common sense. Rather than prescribing medications for a stuffy nose, she would recommend spending time in a steamy shower. Instead of using cortisone creams that would have side effects of their own when a patient had shingles, she recommended sea water compresses. When she retired, choosing a new family doctor meant looking for one with a similar style. And when one was found nearby, the patient had to be very honest in expressing reluctance to go overboard with medications, preferring to treat things naturally, so that their relationship could be as mutually supportive as had the earlier one.

Day 30  Make a word cloud, with tree branches, using a thesaurus to extend it. (no, choosing to take this as my second 'cut.'  I'm left brained, not right, (which is why I skipped the Pinterest challenge on day 16.)

Ta Daa!   Finis!  Complete!  I will now adjourn, be away for a few days, and when I return, it will be with another book review!   Thank you for staying with me this month. I felt the Health Activist Writer's Month was a worthy challenge ... am not sure I've done it justice, but I gave it my best shot.

Now, off to NIH in Bethesda for a true Health Activist effort ... taking part in the patient study seeking biomarkers for earlier Parkinson's Disease diagnosis. It is, after all, what I expected as a diagnosis, and believe is still ahead. As Terry Garr wrote in her book, Speedbumps: MS is just a bump in the road of life. It surely slowed me down in my final years of teaching, and sped up my retirement. But I haven't let it stop me from donating blood to the Red Cross (I did finally reach the eight gallon, 64 pint mark), and I won't let it stop me from participating in the PD 7 year study. Those who are studying MS do not yet know what direction to look in, and while I wish them well with their studies, I feel more confident in participating in this one. I've jumped ship on the DMD belief, and joined the Metabolic disorder group ... treating with healthy food choices rather than with chemicals and injections that hurt.

Be well, everyone! Take good care of yourselves!

Today is my 100th day of blogging here at Terry's Thoughts and Threads ... and the health awareness prompt asks only for a simple Tag Line for my focus. It has to be: Walking to Beat the MonSter!

Rick and I walked at the end of March (MS Awareness Month) in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We had a team of fifteen, including three of my four sisters, five of my many colleagues, and some friends and in-laws as well. It was a very brisk early-Spring day, with temperatures starting in the high thirties but finishing in the low fifties. I did the full five miles, without shortcuts, and felt great afterward. Such a difference from last year, when I cut the distance  in half!  I'm feeling stronger every day, and more like me!

Back to Book Reviews!
It's been very risky for me to dedicate each day's post to the Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge, as my occasional blog readers, led here by the blog's masthead suggesting book discussions, may have wandered off. I know my regulars, like Faye and others, are here for the long run. So here's a review of another mystery involving health workers, police officers, and social workers. And as I've chosen to post it here, you know that it's a good read ... and another five star review!

 Code Triage
by Candace Calvert

This book has all the elements of good fiction: believable characters, realistic settings and powerful emotions. It begins with a married couple approaching the date their divorce will be final - a divorce process begun because the husband, a police officer, broke  his vows when his partner was killed and he went beyond consoling his partner's sister, a childhood friend.

His wife, an emergency room physician, felt betrayed and could not forgive her husband for this, and turned more toward her 'alone' time at the stables with her horse. Her husband has tried to apologize for his weakness following the loss of his partner and his empathy for his partner's sister, but the doctor is not willing to forgive and forget. She was raised in a home where "forever" didn't exist, with a mother who moved from marriage to marriage.

The sister, having known the police officer since childhood, believes she would be a better wife for him, and having a  young daughter she believes the three would be a wonderful family. She is a Child Crisis worker who monitors children living in jeopardy. When one of her clients, a single mother herself, leaves her children alone to go to her night job, and the babysitter doesn't show up as expected fifteen minutes after she leaves, and the children left alone suffer carbon monoxide damage due to a space heater operating because her furnace has been turned off for lack of payment, the mother finds her youngest non responsive, and the daughter, just a toddler herself, has just called 911 crying. 

This brings the three main characters together in a difficult collaboration. The situation escalates, the single mother's drug addicted partner and father of her children enters the scene, and shooting begins.

The author skillfully shares an introspective view of each character's emotional roller coaster, spanning from anger and resentment and love and fear and protectiveness and abandonment ... it is a murder mystery with a strong psychological focus, and well worth a reader's time and tissues.  Five Stars!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 25 of the Health Activist Writers' Month Challenge:  Write a memory, in third person, using all sensory references:
This is a memory of 22 years ago, when Rob was still a toddler, his mother yet undiagnosed.

The two were smiling as she drove along the highway, he in his car seat beside her, with the radio playing oldies. Dad was not with them, as he was caring for Gram in those days, and late afternoon was a time when he was needed to read her the mail, pay whichever bills had come in, and check to see that she had what was needed for supper.

As they took the ramp exiting the highway, her son began watching traffic with her. 
"There's a dump truck, Mum ... and that's a ... that's a brown truck."
"Can  you read the letters on that truck, Rob?" she asked him, downshifting as they came to the end of the ramp and the bright red stop sign, shining in the afternoon sun.
"It's U P S, Mum. I don't know what that says. But the red sign says stop!"

She did stop, and looked to the left, then pulled out carefully into the traffic. The ride from the highway to the shore was busy with commuters who lived year round at the beach and were anxious to get home before the sun set, as the reflective glow on the eastern shore was going to be spectacular.

 They were following the brown truck now, until it turned right into a busy shopping plaza. The traffic lights ahead were just turning yellow, and then red, and they stopped again. Rob had settled back in his car seat, and was watching the lights. As soon as the green light lit, he said "That means go, Mum. Why are we still stopped?"

Before she could answer, traffic began to move, and she eased into the left lane as they approached the turn toward the beach. Heading north, the scenery changed dramatically from the commercial area to a residential one, with large houses built to the left of the road, and a sea wall and dunes off to the right.  Rob watched out his window, and she slowed as she approached the spot where they would find a jetty and tide pools. The parking lot ahead was still fairly empty as the temperature was brisk; not many came out to enjoy the sea in late winter, but then was when she found it most beautiful.

They pulled in diagonally to a space near the opening in the sea wall, and took the kite out from behind the seat. Standing beside his door, she made sure his knitted hat was pulled down over his ears, his jacket was zipped up over his scarf, and his mittens were tucked into the cuffs of his sleeves. Then she lifted him down to the pavement, and let him climb up onto the wall. He began to walk carefully along the top, with his mother walking alongside him. She stepped through the opening and met him on the sandy side, and lifted him down onto the still-frozen sand.  

Rob held the kite and she unrolled the reel of string, walking away from him but still tethered by the kite. His eyes squinted in the wind, and he watched her for their signal. When he saw her lift the reel high over her head, he gave the open kite a push up over his, and she began to pump the string. Gradually the kite lifted, tilting crazily side to side until it had enough height to rise steadily upward on the south wind. Rob ran toward his mother, and together they held the reel, his mittened hands within her cold fingers, working together to guide the kite into the face of the wind. The seagulls began squawking and squealing as the multicolored diamond with the long flapping tale hovered over the tide pools, interrupting their foraging. They were backed up far enough now that Rob could climb over the rocks and look down into the tide pools, searching for urchins with their sturdy, bristly covering. Finding even the discarded shell of one would be a treasure, but none were to be found this time. Coming back to his mother, they both leaned against the seawall and watched the reflection over the water of the sun setting behind them. 
NSRW Sea-Urchin
NSRW Sea-Urchin

Pink turned to lilac, and then lavender, and then violet. "We better hurry - the bugs will be out soon," she said to him.  She began reeling in the kite slowly, careful not to pull so hard against the wind that the string would break. Rob watched as it jerked and bobbed over the water, and when it lowered enough and was back over wet sand he ran toward the sea to catch it's landing. 

They ran together back toward the truck, and she lifted him again onto the wall and passed through the opening. He hopped down to the pavement, and stood by the door as she wrapped the kite back into a narrow twist and tucked it behind the seat. Lifting him up and buckling him in, she saw the first of the small flies landing on the sun-warmed windshield. She hurried over to her door, got in, and looked across the seat at Rob, who was counting the flies as they arrived.

"Six, seven ... we beat them here, Mum." They continued to gather, seeking the warmth of the still warm engine. 

"Will dad be home when we get there?" She nodded, and reached over to pull his mittens off. He reached up to his head and pushed the hat off his forehead. Starting the engine, they waited a few more minutes, watching the violet sky turn to dark purple, navy blue, and then looked for stars ... but saw none.

Moon and Venus at sunset
Moon and Venus at sunset
"Where is Venus, Mum?" he asked, puzzled.

"We'll see her when we get back on the highway. She's in the south-west, waiting for us. There's no cloud cover tonight; it's going to be very cold when we get home."

"And the moon will be with Venus? And Dad will be at home, right? And he will make a fire in the wood stove, right?"

"Right," she said, driving carefully toward the highway, and home.

Last Day for the Discount! 
The online book discussion is tonight, at 7 pm! To be a part of this discussion, go to
for details, and a telephone number to join in!

 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 24 Writing Prompt:  Choose a mascot: real, fictional, or mythical, for your condition.

If you read my blog yesterday, you read a book review of Birth of the Phoenix, by Harriett B. Varney Miller. And in reading and reviewing the book, I was reacquainted with the symbolism of the phoenix, the bird who weakens and dies in a smoldering heap of ash, and then rises, whole and new and better than before. What better 'mascot' to have, what better symbol, than this mythical bird? In the book, she represented the strength of battered women who have the opportunity to remake their lives.

With MS, it is easy to first be defeated by the prognosis that accompanies the diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that can attack any body function, as it rests within the central nervous system, potentially affecting any combination of nerves that conduct message from the brain through the spinal column to all body parts.  Not only can it affect mobility, sight, speech, touch, hearing, taste or smell; it can also affect memory, thought processes, the ability to logically organize thought, plan, strategize and other higher order thinking skills.  And so, it affects not only your life, but the lives of all who care for you, and are cared for by you. It affects your career, your co-workers, and those you may serve in a career: students, patients, clients, and customers who are depending on you for a service such as teaching, nursing, advocacy and other careers.

Initially, the doctor who has the answers is seen as delivering a definitive diagnosis and prescription. The prescription comes with a vague and limited suggestion of a slowing of the progression. You have a choice at this point to reject, accept, or postpone acceptance of this diagnosis. Yet, most people see doctors as infallible, and diagnoses as black and white. In time, you might realize that something doesn't fit, and you may rethink your agreement or rejection.

If you are like me, you may experience a complete deterioration of your life plans and goals, given the limitations that impose themselves on your functioning in the way you are used to functioning. If you are as lucky as I, you have friends and family who will support you through this dark period, and help you to remember that it is your life, and your choice as to whether to agree or disagree with the treatment.

I was able to rise from the ash pile of my former self and create a new me, and begin in a new direction. No longer could I remember one hundred students names at a time. No longer could I organize their individual styles, strengths, weaknesses and needs in my mind, and meet each one where they needed to be met. No longer could I sit at a meeting table with anxious parents seeking advice based on careful observation. No longer could I be a public school teacher.

I rationalized that prior to the official stamp of diagnosis, I was functioning, despite the odd symptoms that come with multiple sclerosis.  I realized that having agreed to the daily injections, I had agreed with the diagnosis despite my consistent and strong belief that this was not MS but something else, something more familiar. I understood then that continuing for four and a half years with injections that troubled me physically, emotionally and economically had brought me down into a depression that deepened by the day, week and month. And when I could see that clearly, and make my decision to stop pretending to agree, stop trying to look like I did have MS and stop injecting something that could affect every nerve in my body, I stopped.

And then I became: I became who I am today, with the strength and confidence of my old self restored, and I arose from the ashes of my aberrant, temporary, indelibly-labeled-with-MS-self. The cessation of injections restored my daily independence. The release from the nightly pain following each injection allowed me to fall asleep at peace with myself, having escaped the unrelenting reminder of this diagnosis. With the help of an antidepressant medication, I began living again, not just existing, and more than just surviving.

Who I am today is a writer, an author, a thinker, an observer, a recorder, and a self-marketer. I am happy with what I have become, and I accept what I've had to leave behind. Phoenix is better with each new rebirth. I have that to look forward to, whenever it may occur yet again.

 And a Reminder: Today and Tomorrow:
I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:

 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 23: Write whatever you want to write today.

Today, I will reclaim this blog for its original intent: reviewing books and encouraging book discussions among others. I've succeeded often at the first, but have proven woefully ineffective with the second.  But I'll never give up!

Today's book is one written by an author who is local - and a member of our newly formed Essex County North Authors and Artists Group. Her name is Sue, but she uses a family member's name as a pen name. Birth of the Phoenix, by Harriet B. Varney Miller, has a stunning young woman elegantly dressed and posed in front of a rising phoenix. It is a treasure that ought to be on the front page of local papers and in the windows of remaining book stores. I picked it up because it was written by a local. I am so glad that I did.

It is a multilayered, many faceted story of growth, and it begins with a young woman living with an abusive husband and a very young son. The character's (not the author's)perspective of marriage is based on her own experience, and on her parents. Her parents were loving and nurturing, and so she wishes to be the same. But her situation is dangerous; she married young, right out of high school and just after her loving parents were killed in a car accident. She believes that her husband would love and care for her. Instead, she lives in a repressive home, with a man who limits her contact with others who might have allowed her to see a different style of family love. She feels worthless, and ill-equipped to leave for her own and her son's safety. But eventually she finds the strength and means to do so, and begins a journey along a new and different path.

The author had spent time helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, and so a bit of that story comes into this one. She uses her characters effectively to point out social inequities and discriminatory practices. She also has characters who embody the goodness that we all believe still exists in our society ... social workers, child care workers, neighbors and new friends who have shared similar heartache and know how to listen to each other, and how to support goals and respond to defeatism.

This book would be a great gift for anyone just emerging from high school, someone looking around at the world beyond school, and preparing to make choices that have immediate ramifications. It is a book that will encourage young people to be aware that choices can be changed, and that negative feedback can be wrong.

This is a book that celebrates the strength of women. It is a book that opens eyes to possibilities. It is a story that will make a reader stop and think back on younger years, or pause and look carefully before taking the next step forward. I am so glad that this author's proximity caused me to find and read this book, and to share it here with you.

Remember: only three more days!
I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:

 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 22 Writing Prompt: The Things We Forget

I used to need a list to remember everything I needed to take with me when I left the house at 6:30 in the morning ... I taped the list to the frame of the back door, so that I would see it as I left.  Here is the list:

Iron turned off
Coffee turned off
computer bag
school bag
cell phone
travel cup of coffee
lunch bag
lights off
door locked

Those were the things  that were necessary for me to leave town with peace of mind, knowing I would not have to turn around to go back for one or two of them if forgotten. These were in the years when Rob was in college, Rick was working an earlier day than I, and I was leaving the house last. These were the years after my parents had passed, and before my diagnosis of RRMS had been finalized. Our lives had settled down somewhat, but my memory of last minute details was weakening.  Evenings extended into late nights with paperwork taking more time and energy each night ... correcting essays was becoming more difficult, recording scores on computer with tiny squares and failing eyesight ... age was taking its toll as well.

But during my last few years at school, Rick was home with me in the morning, and he did his best to be sure that I had all that I'd need for the day each morning. Still, the list stayed taped in place.

Now retired, I don't have to rush anywhere. I don't have to leave and lock a door behind me, worrying that I'm forgetting something. I can sleep in most mornings. I have no papers to correct, no scores to record, no meetings to remember and no worries about deadlines.

Rick and I are almost always together now. We are back to sharing one vehicle. We double-check each other and laugh when we've both forgotten something. But the list is still taped to the back door frame ~ a reminder that the good old days are behind us now, and we are living our happily ever after, together, and safe.

Remember: only four more days!
I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:

 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Today's writing prompt: a mad lib poem. Edit it to make it better. Okay ,.,., I'm pretty much at a loss with this. Not to say I am troubled by ee cummings choice of no capitalization; rather, I think this is a grave misrepresentation of his skills, if not mine.  But try one for yourself, and see if you can do this better.

gracious person's gracious person

graciously i have never eat, gently beyond
any place, your bell have their gentle:
in your most warm cafeteria are things which attend me,
or which i cannot join because they are too warmly

your silly look laughingly will unshare me
though i have welcomed myself as lunch,
you laugh always tray by tray myself as food giggle
(smiling lovingly, carefully) her loving dessert

or if your cupcake be to encourage me, i and
my lemonade will drink very generously, kindly,
as when the thing of this place love
the teacher wisely everywhere playing;

nothing which we are to toss in this student whistle
the classroom of your caring school: whose book
call me with the map of its desk,
waiting chair and playground with each reading

(i do not write what it is about you that study
and forget; only something in me remembers
the sunshine of your bell is giving than all food)
lawn, not even the sprinkler, has such kind table

- Terry & e.e. cummings

Create Your Own Madlib on

And now a reminder: five days to go!

I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:
 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 20 Writing Prompt: And a Discount at Smashwords and CreateSpace!

  Today's prompt is to write a news story and headline about a miracle cure - being sure to include a disclaimer.

Be forewarned: this is a writing prompt response. However, I believe it to be true!
All you have to do is believe! Click the song titles to hear the music of love.

Miracle Cure for Unhappiness!
There are so many songs with the word love repeated in them, and love is the true key to happiness. Loving others requires you to in some measure love yourself. And loving yourself builds positive feelings within you, and positives within negate the unhappiness that approaches you.

All you need is love ,.,., dah dah dada dah All you need is love.
I love you, you love me, we're a happy family ...
As it was in the beginning ... and there is love.
She loves you yeah yeah yeah yeah...

And if your love ends ... your relationship fails ... your loved one passes ... remember that there are always reasons for what happens. But you are never left alone, for you always have yourself, your memories, your dreams, and your spirit.    

And if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve ... learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Remember to share the love within you!

... the past is just a goodbye ... Teach your children well ... feed them with your dreams ... and know they love you
...and you wonder where we're going ... Where's the rhyme and where's the reason... 

And that is my cure for unhappiness: love yourself, love others, and teach love. Have a happy day!

 And in other news:

I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:
 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'm offering a coupon for a Discounted Download  (April 19 through 25th) Here's the information you'll need:
 Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for 50% off is TC78K

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Please consider writing a review at Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads or in an email to me - I would love to post the reviews here for others to read.
 Today's writing prompt: What five people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?

I have to expect that my immediate family (husband, daughter and companion, son and companion, and grandchildren) would already be at the table with me. And, we always set an extra place. So here are my six guests:
In that case, I would like to invite Hillary Clinton (accompanied by her husband, Bill), in order to thank her for her service to our country as Secretary  of State in such difficult  years.  
I would next want to invite Barack Obama and his wife, and two daughters. I would want to thank them for the decision to stay at the White House at great personal expense, and for the benefit their presence gives to the rest of America.
These six people are currently in the position to advocate for improved health care for all Americans, and are currently receiving top notch medical care for themselves. Their futures are assured by earned pensions, and their safety is in good hands with the secret service protection no matter where they are in the world. 
All six of them have every reason to want to sit together at the same table; I would love to have my family break bread and have a chance to talk freely with each of them.
As a teacher, I would want to engage the Obama daughters in a conversation about how they are developing their own social and political beliefs, and how the move to Washington may have affected those. My own grandchildren would no doubt have some comments to share about attending public high school in a state widely impacted by the economic decline.  

As a retired teacher whose pension was affected by a premature retirement caused by a diagnosis and treatment that weakened me both physically and emotionally, I would want both Hillary and Barack to hear my limited economic rewards for thirty years of dedicated, 'highly qualified' teaching. I would want my son to have a chance to explain to them that though he works more than forty hours through multiple positions as a highly skilled public servant he is not yet entitled to quality health insurance. I would want my daughter to have an opportunity to ask both of them how they are working to improve the long-term economic planning to benefit her children. I would want my husband to have a chance to point out that his years of unpaid elder care have limited his maximum earnings towards pension and social security benefits. 

I would like to give our dinner guests a healthy menu, one which would feature vegetables, grains, clear filtered water and fresh fruit for dessert. I would like to host this dinner during cold winter weather, using our wood stove to supplement the oil furnace that we really cannot afford to turn higher. While the stove would keep them comfortable, they would see that carrying in the wood and maintaining the fire and the area surrounding the stove would take energy and attention, more so than simply turning a thermostat higher. 

I would ask our guests to bow their head for a moment of silence, meditation or prayer, just as I did with my colleagues for thirty years of public education. And I would teach them the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language, explaining the meaning so evidently attached to each word's sign. And then, after dinner, I would offer a simple grace expressing thankfulness for the healthy food and good company shared. 

And I would wish them all well.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day 18: Open a book and write: Also, the FREE DOWNLOAD TODAY

I'm offering a coupon for a FREE DOWNLOAD  (APRIL 17 AND 18) Here's the information you'll need:
Generating coupon code for Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code for FREE is CJ23V

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Please consider writing a review at Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads or in an email to me - I would love to post the reviews here for others to read.
Today's Health Awareness writing prompt is: open a book, see a phrase, and write about it for 15 minutes.
I opened a book by Robert Fulgham, found on my daughter's bookshelf. The phrase I read is:"... it can always be worse than the list"
Of course, my first thought is, what list? But that would take me away from the intent of the prompt. So instead, I will write about a list that I have been following all week while staying at her house.
It's a list of morning chores:  after getting the kids' morning needs met so that they are ready on time for the high school bus, there are the animals to care for: not many, but their needs are very different.
The dog has an egg beat into his morning dry food, so his bowl must first be washed. As his water bowl has to be filled anyway, I wash that, too. I stir his egg in his empty bowl, then add a scoop of dog food, then stir it into the egg. He sits patiently at my feet as I do this. I wash his water bowl then, and half fill it, and put both bowls on the floor. If there are leftovers of the kids' toast or bagels (not usually) I'll add that to his food, too. 
Then the fish - there are only two, and they don't need much. A small pinch of flaked fish food and a small pinch of freeze-dried blood worms (which don't look like worms at all.) Then top off the water in their tank, and watch them find the food. The sucker fish actually turns on his back and skims along just underneath the surface of the water, scooping up the flakes that are floating there, as though he were cleaning them from the sides of the tank. And the small black shark with the pointed nose and two tiny whiskers darts around the tanks foliage, snatching for the blood worms, and rejecting the flakes. To each his own.
Last on the pet list is the family's bird, a cockatiel (I may have that name wrong) who greets me each morning when I remove his cage cover with a seductive whistle. I remove, wash and refill his water, and then dump the remainders of his seeds (mostly empty husks) and fill it with new seed. If I remember, I'll give him a slice of peeled apple, or a bit of fresh lettuce. He talks in chirps to me as I'm doing it, interspersing his language with whistles he has learned. I've taught him to imitate the sound of a cardinal, and he does that quite well. He somewhere learned how to imitate a donkey, and a chirp that sounds very much like 'hurry up,' which gets me moving or calls me back to finish whatever I'd forgotten. And yes, I have to agree with Robert Fulgham: it could always be worst than the list: it could be many more animals, with pens that need to be cleaned out. Or it could be many more animals and not enough food to share. It can always be worse.
The animals have been wonderful company with me this week - the dog curls up in bed at night with me, the bird greets me flirtatiously each morning, and the fish are mesmerizing to watch as they share the tank gracefully. When the kids come home from school, there are more lists of reminders, but they, too, are enjoyable and loving. 
Life could certainly be worse than it is! I've had a wonderful two weeks with them all. 

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Celebrate! Multiple Sclerosis an Enigma is now at Smashwords! Free!

After many months of trying on my own, I finally admitted defeat and hired an expert book formatter to get my book into the demanding format Smashwords required. It is now available in many e-reader forms: Nook, Sony, Kindle and more.  To celebrate this achievement, I'm offering a coupon for a FREE DOWNLOAD FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW (APRIL 17 AND 18)  Here's the information you'll need:

Generating coupon code for Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma
Your coupon code is CJ23V

The print version remains discounted at Create Space: here is the information you'll need for that:
and enter this discount code at the checkout: VXXURQMH

Please consider writing a review at Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads or in an email to me - I would love to post the reviews here for others to read.

And now,
Day 17 Health Awareness Prompt: 
What is a lesson you learned the hard way?

Sometimes we let our ego get in the way of logic. After trying to meet the requirements of Smashwords' e-pub format and failing repeatedly, you would think I could have allowed myself to seek help ... well, I did seek help - I asked my son to take a look at the mess I had made at the time of the first failure ... the helpful directions at Smashwords were highly technical in language ... and as my son wasn't there when I made the errors, he couldn't help me puzzle out the solution.

I tried again. I tried a third time. I read the difficult guidelines over and over, trying to absorb by osmosis their meaning.  As best I could tell, my computer was unable to leave Microsoft Office and work solely in Word, and so my file was continually rejected. 

Only when I learned that other authors left the formatting woes to folks who offered to work with their files for a nominal fee (in my case, offers ranged between twenty and fifty dollars) did I let myself seek that help. 

The first formatter advertised his rates as between twenty-five and fifty, and when he learned that my book had twenty chapters he quoted at the high end but advised that his work was guaranteed and would be completed within 72 hours.  I said thank you very much, but I can't afford that right now.

Discouraged, I went back to the other authors, and asked what they thought of the offer. One gave me the name of another formatter on the list, who had done the work slowly and carefully and for less money. I contacted that person, sent her my file, and she agreed that she could do it in a matter of two weeks. She sent me the completed file last night.

But in transferring it from my email to my desktop, and then on to Smashwords, the issue of Works to Word again reared its head. Her file was apparently corrupted by the process. She had an answer, though, and sent the file again through something called I was able to save from the email without opening the document, and forwarded it on successfully to Smashwords. 

Once again, though, Smashwords rejected my submission, saying that the jpeg cover image was too small. I had encountered that problem before, when I submit the cover for a Rack Card order with Vistaprint. I had enlarged it to their required size, but it became 'pixelated'  and the result was blurry. I ordered it anyway, not expecting perfection and happy to settle with what I had. Smashwords wasn't of a like mind. They don't settle.

The formatter helped me again, this time in somehow enlarging the jpeg without blurring the image, bless her.

What does this teach me about myself, and how do I connect this to health?  A year ago, when I was trying to submit my first book to Smashwords, I was in a different place, emotionally. I was continually butting my head against the proverbial brick wall, seeing no way around or over it. Calmer now, I am often remembering my dad's advice ... to turn to a new direction that will benefit others as well as myself. 

Hiring someone to do the work for me made sense, just as it makes sense for other authors to hire me to improve their drafts through proofreading, or editing. We cannot all be good at everything; knowing that, and choosing to do what we are good at, is a privilege adults have. Schools expect students to succeed in every subject - which is why Edison, Einstein and other highly intelligent creative thinkers do better learning in their own smaller sphere.  The cartoon that so eloquently addresses this issue is one that shows a rabbit, a bear, a turtle, a fish and some other creature. They are all asked to demonstrate proficiency in climbing a tree. Point made. 
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