June is Freedom

I’ve been spending a lot of time these days looking back. Looking back on better times, better days. I read my journals written pre-2020, before Covid, before my health took a nosedive in early 2021 and has continued into 2022, to try to remember what normal life was like. How I used to live. What waking up and doing and going wherever I wanted felt like.

It’s so strange that you can live a certain way for most of your life, and then a year of a lockdown caused by a pandemic, followed by a year of bad health, can make that life you used to live feel so foreign to you that it’s as if someone else had lived it. You have no visceral connection to the past experiences you read about in your journal or see in pictures because that person doesn’t feel like you anymore.

No longer seeing yourself in yourself is a peculiar, isolating feeling.

The summer months are approaching. Though my favorite season is fall, (who can pass up hot cider, cozy sweaters, comfy slippers, the smell of crisp leaves, and, of course, Halloween and all of its scary movies) June has always felt like freedom to me. I’m assuming that sentiment has carried over from when I was a child and June marked the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation. Freedom!

Sunshine, barbeques, baseball games, outdoor concerts, carnivals, and fests.

June starts tomorrow, but I’m not feeling as free as I once did. The sunshine of June that ushers in the summer months used to fill me up with excitement for potential summer adventures.

Maybe I’ll feel that excitement next June.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

Margaret does what she wants

Wrinkles cover her thin-skinned ninety-two-pound body, compliments from her eighty-seven years of living in this, at times, tumultuous world.  But she’s as easygoing as they come, mostly unbothered by external noise.

She’s a headstrong, entirely capable, and stubborn woman. I love all of those qualities about her.  She minds her own business and lives the way she wants. She talks to me in her beautiful Irish accent. She was born on a farm in Ireland. She rode a horse to school with a trap in the back where kids hitched rides on the way. She misses the horses. The farm had rabbits and dogs and pigs, but she loved the horses the most.

A couple years ago, her son privately talked to her doctor to persuade the doctor to tell her she couldn’t drive anymore. One day she joined me for a walk with my dog Phil and she had a disgruntled look on her face. I asked what was wrong.

“I know my son told my doctor to tell me I can’t drive anymore. I’m not stupid.” She looked up at me with her thin lips pressed bitterly against each other and her short brown hair swaying in the breeze. “But I do what I want. He’s not the boss of me.”

Later that day I was sitting on my front lawn with Phil and her garage door opened. Seconds later, a blue van backed out of the garage and down the driveway. She pulled into the street and gave me a wave from behind the wheel as she passed.

She’d found her keys. She’s determined like that.

Another day I was walking Phil past her house, and she was in the garage pounding out a dent in her car. I asked her what happened. She said she hit something in the garage but had to hurry because her son would be over soon. I asked if she needed help, she answered, “No, just don’t tell my son.”

That made me smile. Most everything about that special woman makes me smile. I wish to be more like her. I was down one day and told her about it. She told me she doesn’t think about thoughts that bring her down. I imagine that isn’t something she just started doing in her later years. I’m sure she lived by that adage even when she was younger and raising six children. She talks of her past without regret or resentment. She had a hardworking husband, (whom she also tells me wasn’t the boss of her) but times weren’t always easy, especially the early days in Ireland when work was hard to find or when one of her children took their own life.

None of her pains from the past show on her face now. At least none that I can see, though it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. She chooses to live as happily as she can. Not many people make that choice. Some live bitterly and filled with anger. When my nieces and nephews were young, they’d come over and play in the street. Naturally, they’d make a lot of noise. She’d always come outside, not to yell about all the racket, but to sit on her front porch and watch the kids play because she loved to hear the sound of children’s laughter.

Margaret lives across the street from me, and she loves to sit at her front window with her cat. No matter how bad of a day I may be having, when I see her face at the window I always smile because she waves at me with such excitement, huge smile and arm waving fast and high, as though she’d been waiting all day to see me. I will miss that when the day comes where she is no longer at the window. Hopefully that won’t be for a while.

Margaret came over a couple days ago to tell us she and her son and daughters are going to England but won’t be stopping in Ireland. She doesn’t have much family there anymore and doesn’t want to impose on the ones still there. We sat and got to talking and she shared with me how happy she is that we are neighbors. She went on about how comforting and safe she feels that we are right across the street from her. Margaret doesn’t live alone. She has her daughter, and her son stops by almost every day, yet still she appreciates that we are neighbors.

That meant something to me, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate that we are neighbors, too.

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? 

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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?

On the Mend

It’s been over two months since I last wrote. Health issues had put my life on hold for a little while, but after some hard months, I am finally on the mend. It’s a slow, snail-paced mend, but it’s something. And when you’re knocked down, you cling to any help to get you back up.

Unfortunately for me, that help comes in the form of medications, and lots of it. I know I’m lucky to be living in a time that modern medicine and technology keep me alive with a disease that has ‘gravis’ in its name, derived from ‘grave’, but side effects are a real bitch.

Because I have an autoimmune disease, I know my immune system attacks itself. I became a vegetarian about eight years ago after my neurologist at the time told me about a book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman called Eat to Live.  She said her sister-in-law has lupus but had been able to get off most of her medication after following the book’s diet. This was in late 2012. I bought the book. It recommended a plant-based diet.

At the time, I was not at all familiar with plant-based anything. I was eating the standard American diet consisting of mostly meat, dairy, and some vegetables and salads. I didn’t know what inflammatory foods were, but I would come to learn that animal protein is a huge culprit in inflaming our immune system. And for people like me who are already battling a compromised immune system, we don’t need any help wrecking the part of our body that is integral in fighting off viruses and infections, and keeping us healthy.

So I gave up meat. I wish I could say I did it cold turkey, but I am by nature a gradual person. I phased out red meat and pork, but ate chicken and fish. It took about five months to completely be off meat. I also ditched dairy milk for almond milk. That was an easy transition because almond milk is delicious.

Eliminating animal protein completely from my diet was hard. I hate that it was so hard for me. I hate that I didn’t read Dr. Furhman’s books and immediately change my diet, especially after what my doctor had told me. But diets are hard to change, but I eventually made the change. I went vegan, but would eventually eat cheese again. This back and forth happened three or four times. It was a vicious cycle.

About a year ago I again went vegan, with an emphasis on eating a more plant-based diet. For a little while there I was consuming way too much vegan junk food. With the rise of more people ditching meat or just eating less of it, companies have taken notice and grocery story shelves are filled with vegan pizzas, vegan burgers and sausages, vegan chicken nuggets and patties, vegan mac and cheese, and vegan ice cream and doughnuts.  I indulged in all of them and I loved them all — a bit too much.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat those foods anymore, but they are no longer stocked in my fridge the way they used to be. It is definitely a ‘once-in-a-while’ thing. All that processed food is not the optimal diet in fighting inflammation. I admit, before this flare-up happened and when I was feeling good, I got lax, and I ditched some veggies for  vegan corn dogs and fries and other tasty and convenient vegan products.

Earlier this year around March, something triggered my immune system to get all wacky and now, in September, I’m still trying to make it right. Things are getting better, but it’s been a journey I never want to be on again. I do wonder if I were eating a more anti-inflammatory diet would my immune system have responded better? Had I stuck to my plan of eating mostly plants and whole foods would I been able to beat this flareup? Maybe. I don’t know, but my diet now is based around whole foods, as close to its natural state as possible.

It’s easy to eat extra healthy when you’re not feeling well, but making it your lifestyle even on days where you’re feeling great and just want to splurge a little, nd then it turns into a lot. That’s the challenge. But if I ever get tempted to go back to my old ways, I have about six months worth of reasons not to.

My Failed Plant-Based for Thirty Days Challenge

My plan to eat completely plant-based for thirty days lasted about seventeen days. Though I’ve failed to eat 100 hundred percent plant-based, doesn’t mean I completely gorged myself on junk vegan processed foods, although I did over-indulge a little. A couple weeks ago, a local Chicago-based fast food restaurant, Buona Beef, that specializes in Italian beef, debuted its Italian “beefless” sandwich.

It tasted just what I remember an Italian beef tasting like. Even my omnivore neighbor couldn’t taste a difference. It’d been awhile since I’d had one. Italian beefs were one of my faves. For me, an Italian beef sandwich is more “Chicago” than hotdogs and deep dish pizza. But Veganwise, there was nothing comparable to the real thing…until now.

In the last few weeks I’ve had three of them. Don’t judge. I’m making up for lost time. At least I’d found the will to steer clear of my favorite vegan ice creams — and there are many. Still, despite my affinity for all things Beyond Burgers and Daiya pizzas, I do have my limits to the amount of delicious vegan processed junk I consume on a regular basis. I enjoy many simple vegan meals too, based around foods that were grown in the ground and not in a lab, but if those lab-grown foods replace animals from being torturously slaughtered, then I’m all for it…with some consumption limitations.

Although I failed the challenge I made to myself, one habit I’m going to make permanent is not filling my freezer with all of my favorite vegan junkfoods – pizzas, burgers, sausages, corn dogs, and ice cream. If it’s not in my house, I can’t eat it.

The Great Writing Duo, C.D. Hersh, Share Questions They’ve Been Asked While Promoting their Books.

from C.D. Hersh Over the years while promoting our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, and appeared on different blogs or radio interviews we’ve encountered many questions. Today, we are sharing a few of those questions and answers. Who had the greatest influence on your writing careers? At Donald’s uncle’s 90th birthday party, when we were talking with him about writing when Donald retired, he said we should just go for it now. We took his advice and the rest is history. He died a year later and really didn’t get to see that we got published. Where’s the most romantic vacation spot you’ve been together? Wawasee Lake in Indiana, where you can see a full sky of stars on an evening stroll arm-in-arm along the lake, listening to the sounds of the evening. Are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, evening writer, or midnight oil writer? As a team we tend to be afternoon and evening writers, although Catherine has been known to be a midnight oil writer when she is working with the first draft. When did you first realize you were a good writing team? Our first experience as a writing team came when we were writing drama scripts for our church. We had so much fun doing it and people seemed to really like what we wrote, that on a business trip Donald took, we wrote a three-act play called Adam and Eve on a Raft. After that we were hooked on writing things longer than two-minute skits. Then on another business trip we were discussing writing a book, to pass the time and keep awake, and the paranormal series was born. In your Turning Stone Chronicles, you have a unique take on shape-shifters. Can you talk a little bit about that? As we developed the book concept, we decided that we wanted something different than the normal were-shape shifters. In reality, we can thank Donald’s psychology courses for the idea of the various forms of shifting. One of the psyche theories is that we all have three parts to our psyche, commonly called id, ego and super-ego. We added a twist to that theory using male, female, and animal egos, and a magic ring that could tap the various forms. What is your favorite sentence or quote in The Promised One? We have several but probably the best is: “Grief is a midnight indulgence when no one else can hear.” Who do you envision as your lead characters? Alexi Jordan and Rhys Temple are the heroine and hero of The Promised One. Their story line runs through all the books, although the lead characters will change in each book. In The Promised One, the partnership between Rhys and Alexi is extremely powerful and hits you immediately from the beginning of the book. Do you think this is a reflection of the strength within your own relationship together? We’re laughing out loud here as we read this question. It’s not something we intended, but since our daughter said she could see us in the characters, we guess it does reflect our relationship, minus the shifting, of course. We suppose a bit of self comes out in all writers’ writing, at some point. Since we’ve commented about Rhys and Alexi’s relationship, we thought we’d give you a brief look at those characters. Tucking his gift under her arm, she started to leave. “Hey.” He pointed at the other gifts. “Aren’t you going to add yours?” “Nope. I’ll give it to you later, when we’re alone.” “Ooh. Something special. Mineral or animal?” His right eyebrow raised, his smile growing. Alexi laughed. “Just embarrassing.” “For you or for me?” “I’m not telling.” Sidling close to her, he backed her against the wall. “Come on. Just a hint,” he said, a purr in his tone as he placed his hand on the wall next to her shoulder and moved into her personal space with the ease of a lover. One of his famous melt-the-girl looks smoldered in his gaze. The golden flecks in his green eyes lit up like fireworks. Hot fireworks. Enjoying his closeness and the raw sensuality emanating from him, she lingered for a minute, then slowly moved away. Standing this close she could get burned, and she wasn’t ready to play with fire . . . not yet. She shook her head. “Not a chance.” He crossed his arms, obviously irked that she hadn’t succumbed. “My irresistible charms work on everyone else. Why not you?” Oh, if you only knew. She had to fight to resist him. She flashed him a smile. “Because I’m special. And I’m your partner. Keeping your back safe is more important than getting you on your back.” He laughed, a deep, throaty, and utterly sexy sound. She locked her knees to keep from melting into a puddle. “I like the sound of that.” Of course you would. She felt her face flame. Amazon buy links: The Turning Stone Chronicles Series page The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1) Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2) Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3) The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)
C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories. Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after. They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

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Ricky Finds a Home

Last July my dog, Phil, suffered from liver failure. The situation was touch and go for a horrible two weeks. But, against the vet’s grave prognosis, my baby survived. He’s twelve, and though I know he won’t live forever, I was completely unprepared for losing my dog. My baby. My sidekick. The face that makes me smile even when I want to cry. The eyes that watch my every move, because his world revolves around me as much as my world revolves around him, maybe even more so. 

During that miserable time of not knowing whether or not Phil would turn that miraculous corner to recovery, I was consumed with the idea of losing him. I didn’t eat. I cried when I held him and buried my tears in his fur. He seemed to know his precarious situation, but never gave up.  I love him so much for that. 

But all through that time and after, I only considered my loss of losing him. What I would have done. What my life would be like, while never considering his loss should something happen to me. I know he waits for me when I leave the house, as all dogs do, but how would they feel, how would they react, if we never make it back home to them? 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last month, when a neighbor passed away suddenly. She had a dog, Ricky. We used to walk our dogs together, along with another neighbor and her little dog. The woman’s parents could not take Ricky, he didn’t get along with their own dog. This woman had no brothers or sisters. They didn’t know a lot of people who could, or would, take Ricky in. He went with a family friend, but that didn’t work out. 

I volunteer at a shelter. I’ve seen many dogs come to the shelter in the way of Ricky’s predicament. Through no fault of their own, they lose their owners to death, and there is no one to take them in. So these dogs, used to living in a home filled with stability, love, security, now come to a shelter filled with loud chaos and uncertainty. Even the best shelters are a scary place to a dog who has only known a house as a home. 

Luckily, Ricky didn’t have to meet that fate. My neighbor with the small dog took him in. She had the intention of keeping him, but two dogs were a bit too much for her. But she was determined to keep him until she could find a home for him, which wasn’t hard at all because Ricky is adorable. 

Last week, Ricky went to his third home in less than a month. This was a friend of a friend, so my neighbor passed Ricky off confident he would be well-taken care of. I often wondered for those weeks that my neighbor had him what he was thinking. Did he think his mommy would come for him soon? Was he waiting for her? Did he miss his home and wonder why he was moving to different places? We avoided walking Ricky down the street he used to live. We didn’t want to confuse him.  

But then on the day he was leaving, I took Ricky for a walk and thought maybe it was the right time for him to say goodbye to his old home. We walked down his street. He definitely knew where he was. He lead me straight to the familiar place, sat down in the driveway, and stared at the house. He didn’t try to pull me to the door, which I was glad for.

Ricky’s mom’s name was Tracy. She didn’t die at home, but if spirits find their way back home no matter where we pass, maybe she was there to see him one last time.

I hope so.

I thought about Phil, remembering what I went through when I thought I was losing him, but we need to consider what our furbabies go through when they lose us. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about Phil going to a shelter or being shuffled to three different houses. He has an uncle and aunties who love him, and who he loves, especially his uncle.

Uncle is his favorite. 

Phil and uncle

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is going to be a strange Thanksgiving for a lot of people. For those of us who have decided to spend this day of thanks apart from the very people we are most thankful for, I know it’s hard, but hang in there. This is all temporary and soon we will again be joining our friends and family at the dinner table, sharing good food, good conversation, and lasting memories. 

The key is to live to see another day. Survive until we have a vaccine. I write those words as I am in day 13 of having Covid. I was one of the lucky ones who suffered only mild symptoms, and during this time I’ve been thinking about all of those who lost their lives to this virus. Why do some survive while others don’t? I wish that weren’t so. 

So although this Thanksgiving I’m not with all of my family, I do have much to be thankful for. I’m still here.

Since I didn’t get to shop for my usual Thanksgiving favorites, I will celebrate and give thanks this holiday as I tear into a delicious vegan pizza. Because why not choose cruelty free when you can?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. Stay safe. 

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Karma Eventually Gets You. It Got Me.

I have laughed more times than I can count at people who fall. As long as they are not seriously injured, broken bones or gushing blood, I will laugh every time someone falls. I have spent more time than I’ll admit on YouTube watching videos of people tripping, falling, walking into glass doors.

I was at a funeral a few years ago talking with a friend who knows me well, when over my friend’s shoulder, I saw a little girl, playing on the chairs, fall to the floor. Apart from hurting her knees a little, the girl was fine. So I laughed. My friend, without turning around to see why I was laughing, simply asked, “Who fell?”

“A little girl.” I chuckled some more.

“You’re a monster.”

“Maybe,” I replied.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe I am a monster for laughing at a little girl falling at a funeral. But I got my due the other night as I was walking toward the Walgreens entrance, excited to pick up pictures I’d taken of my dog and great-niece looking so sweet together, and didn’t notice the sudden incline in the pavement. I tripped so bad in my winter boots, I dropped straight to the ground, and my hands and left knee immediately began to sting.

Despite the agonizing throbbing pain in my knee, I got up as quickly as I could, because God forbid I should linger on the ground long enough to allow a few more people to see that I have fallen, and have them laugh at me the way I would have laughed at them. My fall had met my criteria of no broken bones and no gushing blood.

So I got to my feet and walked into the store as limp-free as I could, while ignoring the fact that a golf ball-sized bump was forming on my knee. I paid for my pictures and got the hell out of that store knowing that karma got me.

It got me good, and I deserved it.

As I was editing this blog, my dog, Phil, needed to go outside. So I took him for a walk, and we ran into a neighbor and her dog. As our dogs interacted, sniffing and pawing at each other, my neighbor’s dog got out of its collar. I was able to get a hold of the dog before it could get away.

As my neighbor tried to slip the collar back on, she lost her footing, fell backwards, and rolled onto her side. I asked the woman if she was okay. She quickly said she was, but I knew the woman was embarrassed.

I knew how she felt.

Boy, did I know how she felt.