How Many Books in a Year do you Read?

At the start of every year, one of my “new year’s resolutions” is to read 52 books. One book a week. I just finished book number six. At just about ten weeks into the year, I am four books shy. But I won’t lose much sleep over it, I have yet to achieve my reading goal.

Closest I came was in 2015, where I capped off at 34 books. 2017 and 2018 were my slowest years. I read a total of 10 books in each of those years. I remember those years. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that our former tumultuous and chaotic president had something to do with that. 

Reading is something I do to relax. Clear my head. Get out of my real life and escape into another. I read in my bed, mostly at night, and sometimes in the morning. I hardly ever bring my phone to bed with me.

Of course, that changed during the Trump years. Feels like my hands were tied to my phone, constantly checking social media to see what idiotic, dangerous, or embarrassing thing he’d said or did.

I just finished a book that was stuffed in the back of my bookshelf for a long time. The Cave, by Anne McLean Mathews. Suspense thrillers aren’t my favorite genre to read, and this book was just too disturbing for me to enjoy. But if psychological thrillers are your thing, with overly detailed descriptions of torture, then this book is for you.

My list so far for the year is:

The Tao of Pooh– Highly recommend.  We all need to live more like Pooh. 

Emma – Loved it, though not my favorite Jane Austin book. That would be Pride and Prejudice. I was also clueless to the fact that the movie Clueless was based on Emma.  A genius rendition to a classic novel. 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware- A neighbor gave this to me to read.  The writing was simple and the story, easy to follow.  I enjoyed the plot and appreciated that the story wasn’t overly written.  No detail was given that I felt wasn’t needed.

The Catcher in the Rye – What in the hell took me so long to read this masterpiece? Just gonna leave it there. Salinger certainly doesn’t need me to sing his praises.

Goode Girls Lie by J.T Ellison- I really enjoyed this book. Great plot twists. Gave an excellent portrayal of an elite border school for privileged girls, minus all the murder. 

Tonight, I’m starting the book The Reader. It’s been on my list for a little while now. I have few more books to check off my list but am always open to suggestions.  

Anyone? What’s your favorite book? 

coffee

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Helen Carpenter Knows Just How to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

CUPCAKE FANTASY from Helen Carpenter The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume. Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park. She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce. She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool. Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand. After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers. When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon. Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste. Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd. There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day. But she didn’t think so.
Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Batter 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature 2/3 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped ¼ cup heavy cream 1 cup flour 1 tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. salt 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice Preheat oven to 350° F. Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool. Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick. Fold chopped apple pieces into batter. Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups. Bake 20 minutes. Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely. Frosting 1 stick of butter 1 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup heavy cream ¼ tsp. salt 2 cups powdered sugar Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt. Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes. Caramel Sauce 1 cup white sugar ¼ cup water ¼ cup butter 2/3 cup heavy cream Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes. Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes. For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt. Makes 12 cupcakes Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning. Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes. Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .b>

My Best Valentine

My Valentine never makes me feel guilty about eating too much pizza. He’s always ready for a slice.

My Valentine never puts me down for spending another day lounging on the couch. He happily lies beside me, always game for a nap.

My Valentine never turns away when I go in for a smooch or a cuddle (and I do this a lot!). He loves me as much as I love him.

My Valentine always happily greets me at the door, never holding a grudge, no matter how long I am gone. He’s just glad to see me again.

My Valentine lets me have charge of the remote control, never complaining about what movie or show I want to watch.

My Valentine eats whatever I put in front of him, happy to just have food.

My Valentine is the best listener. He knows when to say nothing and just being there is comfort enough.

My Valentine lets me soak him in tears when I need a good cry, no matter how wet he gets.

My Valentine gives kisses on demand, no matter how many kisses I demand. He knows I need it.

My Valentine’s snores wake me up at night, but I don’t nudge him. I let him snore away, because I love him, and he deserves a good night’s sleep.

Thanks for being the best Valentine ever, Phil.

Mommy loves you soooooo much.

Looking Back

Cold, dark, January nights are hard to cope with on any occasion, but they’re practically unbearable when you’re already down. It was late. I’d already done my reading for the night, and I didn’t have another page in me to write. I was tired, but not tired enough to fall asleep fast on my pillow, and I knew my mind would wander too much into thoughts I’d rather not have, so going to bed wasn’t an option. 

I was fiddling around in my room and came across some old journals I used to keep. It had been years since I looked through them. They begin in 1995. I was nineteen years old. I still keep a journal. It’s therapeutic, but I discovered that night, as I read about the days of my life from twenty-seven years ago, journaling is also a time-travel machine.

I was suddenly transported to the home I grew up in and in the bedroom I dreamed of being a rockstar, and, much later, a writer. Most of the entries from my college years, and into my twenties, mention a lot about the writing courses I was taking and the stories I was writing at the time. 

Which was a bit surreal since I am currently working on one of those stories right now. It was my first completed novel. I was twenty-three years old, three years after coming out and writing about the love between two women that was still so new to me. 

The novel itself wasn’t very good, but I kept it and decided it was worth a revision. I have since turned two short stories I wrote in college, that also wasn’t very good, into two published novels. The first, A Penny on the Tracks, and the newly contracted novel, Annabel and the Boy in the Window

Little did I know then, as I wrote those stories, that they would be kept for over two decades and rewritten by the older, but not always wiser, and somewhat jaded forty-five (soon to be forty-six) year-old self. 

I miss my younger self. I often wonder if the nineteen-year-old me would be happy with where her life ended up. In reading my old journals, I didn’t live up to everything my younger self had wanted, but of course, nothing then could have warned me about health issues that would get in the way of work, love, life. 

So, I didn’t get everything checked off on my “life list,” but I am a published author, and as I spent my twenties at some dead-end jobs, that was all I dreamed of being. 

 

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Be Like Pooh

At the start of every new year, I always have a goal to be more spiritual. More introspective. More Zen.  I vow to do more yoga, more meditation than the previous year. The yoga is easy, but the sitting still in one place is hard. I do it, but at times it can be a struggle, and it really shouldn’t be. You are literally just sitting. But you are sitting without thoughts. Without the day’s frustrations or what didn’t get checked off the to-do list weighing on your mind.

You just be. You sit with a clear head. Maybe there’s a chant you say to yourself that helps to calm you and find your center. If I’m having a hard time settling into my meditation and letting go of invasive thoughts, I have a go-to chant that helps to reel in my wandering mind. I say with a steady inner voice, “At this moment all is well.” I repeat the mantra as many times as I need to bring me back to the present moment, where my mind is calm enough to just be. 

I always start the year with a book about spirituality. This year that book is the same book I started last year off. It was worth a second read.  The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. (Tao pronounced DAO) I bought the book at an estate sale. The title grabbed my attention because though I’ve read many books about Buddhism, I was only faintly familiar with Taosim. And also, I was a big fan of Pooh as a little girl. Who wasn’t? He was such a cute and cuddly little bear, and apparently, he knew the secret to staying “happy and calm under all circumstances.”

In this book, the author explains “the principles of Taoism through Winnie-the-Pooh…” He concentrates on the basic sentiment of Taosim that centers around “a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life.” With a simple-mind and not over-analyzing every aspect of his every day, Pooh has no expectations. He simply lives, without interference or fight, but rather by “working in harmony with life’s circumstances…”

Pooh lived by what is known as “the most characteristic element of Taoism-in-action”– Wu Wei.  Wu Wei means “without doing, causing, or making.” Living life without interfering, or being contentious, or arrogant. It means “no going against the nature of things…”  Like water flowing over rocks. The water just goes where the path takes it. There is no “mechanical, straight-line approach…” 

We only begin to reach the state of Wu Wei “when we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us…” The person who thinks too much is bound to interfere with the natural laws by trying too hard. Wu Wei is effortless. “No stress, no struggle.” The round peg goes in the round hole and the square peg goes in the square hole. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be.  Sometimes highly educated minds try to find ways to force the pegs in holes they don’t belong because they want to seem cleverer than the average mind. This is not Wu Wei.

 While the brainiacs spend their days struggling, while trying to be smarter than everyone else, and their frustration growing, Pooh, having simply put the round peg in the round hole, sits under the shade of a tree and happily eats a bowl of honey. 

Pooh knows Wu Wei.

“Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.”

Be like Pooh. 

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What Do We Have If We Don’t Have Hope?

I try to end each year with hope. Being hopeful. With Gratitude. Being grateful. I have much to be thankful for as the year winds to an end. My health is much improved from where it was nine months ago. My life finally shows some semblance of what it used to be. I’m grateful for that. A couple months ago I found a home for a book I had spent over two years writing, a book I wasn’t very optimistic I’d ever get contracted, but I did.  I’m grateful for that, too.

The year is ending on two personal high notes for me.  I should be running into the new year cheerful and exuberant, feeling like nothing can stop me now! But then I turn on the news.  

Just like last year, we are ending the year with rising cases of Covid. Hospitals in some states are at capacity and staffed with nurses and doctors who are tired. They’re tired of coming to the rescue of people who are too ignorant, too selfish, too politically brainwashed to get a vaccine.

So we head into 2022 unsure how much worse things are going to get. How much farther north the Covid deaths will tick above the 806,000 people who have already died. It’s a daunting prospect. 

But I’m going to be hopeful. I am going to end this year hopeful that this coming year will be better than the last. Maybe for no other reason that it simply just has to. Please???

I wish for all people who had health setbacks this year that they, too, are seeing progress and will be ringing in the new year hopeful. Because what do we have if we don’t have hope?

Author Stella May’s Childhood and New Year’s Celebration in the USSR

from Stella May When I was a child, December 31st was the happiest and most anticipated day of the year. You see, in my old country, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even know what Christmas was. Instead, we celebrated New Year. How come? Well, I was born in the former USSR, the communist country, where Christmas as a religious holiday was banned since 1928. (I think they reinstated it in 1991, but I am not positive.) But, back to my story. As sad as it may seem to you, our New Years were festive, and happy. We decorated our flats with an abandon. A fresh pine tree was a must. I still remember how it smelled—fresh and green like hope. And, oh God, the decorations! Hand-made, or store bought, and the garlands… We had our own version of Santa Claus—Ded Moroz, who had his lovely granddaughter, Snegurochka. Oh, the New Years of my childhood! It was pure joy, and expectation of something wonderful, and magic rolled into one. The smell of tangerines permeated the air. Those little orange delights were an absolute necessary attribute of any New Year’s celebration–- even more than champagne. My mom slaved in the kitchen for days to put the biggest and most scrumptious meal on the table. And the most favorite dish of all? Olivier Salad, of course. (Look for the recipe in December on this blog.) It was, and still is, a synonym of New Year. Then, on the big day, we would put our best china and gather around the table for dinner. For children, it was the biggest thrill, because only on New Year’s Eve we were allowed to stay up all night, eat sweets, and watch TV until we dropped. And only the children received presents. Mostly, it was sweets, fruit, books, and an occasional toy— nothing the modern children would consider a ‘present’, especially a Christmas present. But we were waiting for those special presents all year and treasured them immensely. To us, they were precious. They represented something special–New Year. No one wrapped our presents simply because we didn’t have any wrapping paper. I remember my mom used cellophane and some ribbons to make our presents a little more festive. I remember how she would hide these funny-looking bundles from us, and how happy she was when she’d manage to transfer them in the middle of the night under the tree, and then looked surprised when we find them in the morning. But most of all, I remember the feeling of absolute and total happiness. Oh, what a joy it was, that magical New Year’s night! The exhilaration, anticipation, celebration! I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday, and my heart breaks a little each and every time. In my family we keep the tradition and celebrate New Year’s in a big way. Now I am slaving in the kitchen, using my mother’s recipes to put on a celebratory dinner. And every year, there are tangerines, champagne, and Olivier Salad. And presents? There will be plenty of presents for everyone— not only for children. And they will be wrapped in a pretty paper, and adorned with festive ribbons and bows. Just in a little over a month, we will sit around the table, and raise our glasses to toast 2022, wishing for health and happiness, peace and prosperity. May this coming year be kind to everybody. Stay safe and healthy, love each other, care for your loved ones, and always keep a positive attitude. Happy New Year, or as we said in Russia, с Новым Годом! Stella Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website. Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors. When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business. Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Moving On

When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a Creative Writing course where I wrote two horribly-written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts. 

About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start. 

Turns out, I was right. 

Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel called A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out.  The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near some train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death. 

As for the other story, The Attic. Well, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes, taking me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but I kept writing until I got the story right. Not only have I finally finished the story, but I got it contracted. The name of the book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally being able to put that story to rest.

I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after I graduated from college. I ended up finishing it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible. 

So in the bin those pages went. Then a couple years back, I fished the pages out of the bin and just like with the short stories, I’d found a storyline I could work with. I’m hoping to be finished with the story by next summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I need to take a look at and see if there’s a storyline in them I can work with. 

Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They’re taking up too much space in my head and I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on anything new. 

If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones can be salvaged and which ones to let go? I’ve realized it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go.  Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.

It’s hard to move on, isn’t it? 

How to Make a Zombie by Sharon Ledwith

HOW TO MAKE A ZOMBIE from Sharon Ledwith Much has been written about the walking dead we’ve come to know as ‘zombies’. Immortalized in movies, television shows, books, comics, and music videos (remember Thriller?), zombies have become so much a part of our culture that people can’t get enough of these brain-eating horror icons. When researching for The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, the third installment of my young adult time travel adventure series, I wanted to incorporate a Voodoo ceremony that included creating a zombie. Oh, where to start, I asked myself, as there was so much information out there to glean, and only a chapter to fit it in.
Buried Zombie Rising Out Of Ground In Misty Cemetery
So do zombies exist? The people of Haiti certainly think so. Here they are considered to be more than spooky stories, but rather very real entities. Stories of zombies persist in Haiti right up to the modern day, with sightings of the poor, haggard creatures fairly common in many rural areas. In fact, cases are so prevalent that there have been wild estimates claiming that there are as many as up to one thousand new cases of zombies a year. Wow, that’s a lot of the undead roaming around a small island! Zombification is even a crime under the Haitian Penal Code (Article 246), in which it is considered to be on par with murder despite the fact that the zombified individual is technically still alive. Bet you’re dying to know how to make a zombie? Read on… The zombies of Haiti were said to be corpses that were reanimated through black magic by powerful Voodoo sorcerers or priests known as bokors, for manual labor on farms and sugarcane plantations. Zombies can allegedly be made from those who are still living if the bokor is powerful enough to wrest the victim’s soul from their body. The process of turning a living person into a zombie is said to follow certain steps. First, the bokor will place a hex on the target of the ritual, who will subsequently fall mysteriously ill and die soon after. The exact methods and concoctions used vary among the bokors, but many use a powerful neurotoxin derived from pufferfish. Some zombification processes use blood and hair from their victims in addition to using Voodoo dolls. Ohers involve a carefully prepared mixture called ‘coup de poudre’ (powder strike) made of mystical herbs, human remains, and animal parts. Administrating this mixture can also vary from ingestion, injection, or even a blow dart. Once the family of the victim pronounces the victim dead, he or she is buried in the family tomb (usually above ground), where the responsible bokor will steal the body from its grave and set about reanimating it through dark sorcery. Next, the bokor performs an ancient Voodoo rite where he or she captures the victim’s ti bon ange (the part of the soul connected to an individual) within seven days following the death of corps cadaver, while it is still hovering over the corpse. This effects a split in the spiritual parts of the victim and produces two complementary types of zombies: the spirit zombie and the zombie of the flesh. The bokor then traps the spirit zombie in a small clay jar or container, and replaces it with the loa (Voodoo spirit) that the bokor controls. The container is hidden in a secret place and is wrapped in a piece of the victim’s clothing or some other personal possession. After a day or two, the bokor then administers a hallucinogenic mixture called the ‘zombie cucumber,’ (made from the plant Datura stramonium) that revives the victim and is used to keep the zombie in a state of submissive confusion. In this brainwashed condition, the zombie cannot speak, has no memory, and no longer resembles its past human personality. Now easy to control, the zombie is completely under the control of the bokor who created them until the bokor dies. Once released from bondage, the zombies can finally return to their home village or place of burial, and die. There seems reason to believe from work and research done in the past that there may possibly be a concrete, scientific basis for stories of zombies, so perhaps time will tell. For now, these mysterious creatures lurk along the fringes of Haitian villages and our imaginations. Whether drug addled slaves or corpses reanimated through dark sorcery, the enigma of real zombies beckons us. Perhaps one day we will bring them out into the light and have the answers we seek. With that, I’ll leave you with this line in the song Thriller, by Michael Jackson: It’s close to midnight! Something evil’s lurking in the dark! Hopefully, it’s not a blood-thirsty corpse. Stay safe, my zombie-loving readers! Here’s a glimpse at my latest time travel mystery.

True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

Eleven-year-old Drake Bailey is an analytical thinker and the genius of the Timekeeper crew. However, no logic or mathematical acumen can change the color of his skin, or prepare him for this third Timekeeper mission in antebellum Georgia. To survive, Drake must learn to play the role of a plantation slave and when confronted with the brutality, hatred, and racism of the deep south, he’ll have to strategically keep one move ahead of his sadistic captors to ensure his lineage continues.

In a dark world of Voodoo, zombies, and ritualistic sacrifice, the Timekeepers must ensure a royal bloodline survives. Can Drake remove both literal and figurative chains to save both himself and a devout slave girl from a terrible fate? If he can’t summon the necessary courage, humanity could stand to lose one of its greatest leaders.

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Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

I Feel You, Tom

If you’re a baseball fan, or just a general sports fan, you’re probably watching the baseball Playoffs right now. As a fan of baseball, I watch the Playoffs regardless of what team’s playing, but being that the team I grew up cheering for is in the hunt for a championship, I’m much more vested. Although, as I write this, my beloved White Sox are losing 6-1 in an elimination game. But I’m not giving up hope.  They can definitely make a comeback. Right?

Pretty please?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

A couple nights ago, social media lit up as Tom Cruise made an appearance at the Dodgers – Giants playoff game. Cruise was captured on camera, sitting in the stands amongst other fans, looking a bit…. different.  Cruise probably has one of the most recognizable faces in the world, so when something in his appearance seems a little off, people notice.

And social media makes sure everyone knows about it.

I wasn’t watching the game, but when I jumped on my Twitter account, I saw the explosion of tweets asking what the heck happened to Tom Cruise’s face. I saw the camera shots of a smiling Tom Cruise, enjoying a night at a ballgame with his son, and immediately thought…prednisone. 

Yes, Tom looked different. He had, what I unfortunately have come to know very well, “Prednisone Face”. His face was looking quite puffy – a common side effect of taking prednisone – a steroid used to decrease inflammation in one’s body.

Obviously I don’t know what medications Tom Cruise is or isn’t taking. Most people on social media jumped to conclusions that his swelled face was the cause of some botched cosmetic procedure.  But me? I looked at the pictures of Cruise littered all over social media and thought, “I feel you, Tom. I got the puffy face, too.”

I’ve written a little here about the flare-up in my health I’ve been dealing with for some months now. In August, when I wasn’t showing signs of improvement, my doctor put me on my most dreaded drug, prednisone.

Fourteen years ago, I was put on that drug and had spent about five years on it, at adjusting doses, but gaining over 70 pounds, dealing with mood changes, insomnia, and anxiety and constant shakiness. Finally by 2013, my doctor put me a new treatment plan and I was completely off prednisone…until now. 

What I remember most about finally being off the preds was enjoying taking pictures again with friends and family. I finally looked like myself again. My smile was my familiar smile again. My hair was no longer thin, and dry and frizzy (yes prednisone messes with your hair too). I looked healthy again, and I loved that. I missed me, and I swore that I would never be on that drug again…but here we are. 

Though it’s only been about two and half months, and we are already tapering, which I’m grateful for, I’m feeling the effects of this hell of a drug. Yes, it has helped ease some of my ailments, but it has done so while also destroying me at the same time. 

Almost from the start of taking the drug in August, I experienced muscle wasting in my legs, so walking, even up a flight of stairs, was exhausting. Then the insomnia and shakiness came, and of course, the puffiness. 

But I did make the conscious decision to change my diet. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been eating a more plant-based diet. When I started the steroids, I decided my diet had to be especially clean. Prednisone raises your glucose levels, so I eliminated sugar from my diet, as well as most processed foods. And I drank a lot….a hell of a lot… of water. Water helps with fluid retention. 

Luckily, I learned a lot from my first stint with prednisone, and with my cleaner eating I’ve been able to stave off the usual prednisone weight gain, but I can’t seem to control the puff in my face. My smile is not my smile. And I think that’s what people noticed about Tom Cruise. The world knows a Tom Cruise smile. Is there a more perfect smile in Hollywood? But just a little puff in the cheeks changes everything. 

The good thing is, it’s only temporary. That’s what I keep telling myself. As we taper and I get off this drug, I will be myself again, and it’s not just about looking like myself. It’s about feeling like myself again. 

Here are some of the plant-based meals I’ve been eating to not only keep the calories low, but to also help feed my immune system.  I’m hoping that in the future, if I’m eating a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet, that will give my immune system the boost it needs to get through flare-ups without needing prednisone. That’s my hope. And what do we have if we don’t have hope?