Category Archives: Life

June Wrap Up, July Goals

Niagara Falls from the American side (image: Sarah Wagner)

Another month has come to an end… This year just keeps on moving along. June was pretty good overall. It’s been just about the busiest month I’ve had in a very long time and I managed to do almost all of the things. I got the beta draft of Christmas in Bear Ridge finished and off to two quick readers while I muscle through polishing edits and description fluffing. My only real goal is to get Bear Ridge sent off to the editor. Once that’s done, I’ll happily get back to Hunter’s Hell and Gods of the Fallen and Eldercynne Knight. All of them are needing to get themselves finished.

In June, I wrote 23,037 words, completed the beta draft of Christmas in Bear Ridge, went camping in New England, I sent 0 submissions out, got two rejections in, wrote up four Face Off Recaps for the four episodes that have run so far (still my favorite game show on TV), cleaned and organized the youngest child’s room, and somehow only lost 1.5 pounds. That last one makes me so stinking mad. I’ve been doing better on not eating a bunch of stupid stuff, moving more, walked SO much of the freedom trail my whole body is still hurting, and I only lost 1.5 pounds. ugh. I do know it was probably all the sitting during all the driving (1400+ miles) and things like crabcake blts (omg, seriously. Amazing!).

July should have a bigger word count, once I get my edits finished but I don’t know how long that is going to take. I’m going to hope for as many words as June and far less missed days but since I don’t think we’re headed to another campground this month, I should be ahead of the game on that. Mostly, I’ll be happy if I can manage that, a revamp of the etsy shop, AND actually lose 5 pounds.

Mid-month, I have an appointment with the rheumatologist. It’s looking like he’s probably going to end up messing with the medications. I’m in a much better place than I was last year at this time but my bloodwork isn’t showing it so much and I’m still struggling at the end of more days than I’d like. Hopefully, shifting that around will help eliminate my crazy short-term memory problems and maybe even get one with a side effect that’s beneficial, like weight loss (fingers crossed all the ways). If nothing changes at all, I’m still in a place that’s much more liveable than it could be so I’ll make the best of it.

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Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.

 

 

 

Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Autism, Fun, Interesting, kids, Life, marriage, Memories, Parenting, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Robocallers, Spam, and other useless things

I have been getting a LOT of spam in my email, on my blog, and on my phone lately. I know some of the uptick in it is because I’m doing some survey type stuff that gets you on those lists and some of the medical stuff I’ve signed up for and that’s fine, whatever, but I don’t understand the point of the spam I get on this blog. None of it makes any sense. It’s not like they’re trying to sell something or whatever but their “comments” make zero sense. Something about a guy named Larry usually. Every now and again, I think I should copy paste this but really, it’s just ridiculous. I just can’t figure out what the reward is for it. How does one make money spamming blogs? Obviously, they are because otherwise they wouldn’t continue to do it, but I don’t get it.

I don’t answer my phone anymore because I’m so sick of Rachel at card services I could scream. Of course, before there was Rachel, there was the guy that tried to get my a “free” cruise thanks to my card. At the time I didn’t have a credit card and he yelled at me that no one in this day and age doesn’t have a credit card. Dude, that’s not how you make your scammer’s commission.

I know sometimes the illegal is also easy but no, I don’t get it. I’m pretty sure some of those scammers would do just as well in a regular, above board gig. And honestly, it’s super freaking annoying.

 

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Old Story, Old Thoughts

Grief has been on my mind a bit lately. I supposed that’s semi-normal for me, for the sorts of things I write, for the sort of life I’ve lived. You can’t avoid it when your grandfather is a funeral director – death is just a part of life. Sometimes, words get said and they aren’t exactly meant the way that they’re said. I think some people forget that words have power and sometimes the edges are sharper than they should be.

Instead of going on some little (or not so little) ramble about grief and the shape of it, the edges of it. I’m not going to go on at length about whether or not there is a wrong way to grieve (spoiler: there isn’t. Though I will say that avoidance is not dealing with it). Grief takes many shapes, many plateaus, and many forms. Grief isn’t always about death either. And I’ve already rambled more than I’d intended. No more rambling from me.

Instead, I’m going to put up an old story of mine that this train of thought always makes me think of. I was sitting waiting on an ultrasound for my youngest child and the story bloomed from there. It appeared in Flashquake in 2010 or 11, something like that. A long ass time ago but I still like it. Hopefully, you do too.

 

The Woman Next to Me is Dying

Sarah Wagner

Disinfectant does little to mask the scents of sickness and death, the inescapable odor that hovers beyond the reach of even the most thorough of cleanings. My nose rebels against the bleached vomit scent, threatening to make my stomach riot. I am at odds with these surroundings, carrying new life into this sick place.

The waiting room is bursting with people in line for their Rorschach images, their internal inkblots. Mine will show a beating heart, tiny fingers and toes, but the others in this room are not waiting for something so delicate or sweet. They’ve come to see the true breadth of what ails them, the lumps and bumps of scary things, lurking in the dark things.

The woman next to me is holding hands with her third round of chemo. As long as there is any offer of hope, she will be fighting. I admire her more than I have words for. What great strength must she possess in those frail, irradiated bones to face mortality with such hope.

She wears her baldness uncovered, a badge of honor, a crested buckler against death. She’s a fighter, deftly deflecting each coup de grace thrust in her direction. She won’t go quietly. Next to her, I’m a novice. I hope when the duel is mine, I am as strong as her, my will as sharp.

I am not here to parry, but to bring the next student into the world. I am waiting to hear that locomotive heart, to feel him moving beneath my skin, squirming against his prison. Anxious to begin his training.

He’s going to come out bald, like the woman next to me, and I hope he’s a fighter like her. I pray that my boy has the same strength to face life, the same steel will. I pray that the woman next to me finds her answer, finds remission in her IV bag, victory in hand.

*

I know it’s not exactly grief in the most obvious way, but for me, hope and grief spend a lot of time holding hands. The woman was more an amalgamation of people in that room and I knew none of them and I have no idea what happened to any of them. I prefer to think that each of them won the wars they were fighting.

 

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Bourdain

I was stunned by the news today of Bourdain’s passing. They’re saying it was suicide. If nothing else, we should note that money, fame, and success don’t automatically mean you’re ok. I’m sure one of those things makes life easier but the other two come with their own weights and costs.

I would like to note here that you are loved, even if you don’t know it, don’t see it, can’t believe it. You are loved. If you are feeling like you’re in a dark place, like ends feel easier, please contact someone. Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-talk please call them.

I’ve been in dark places before where my depression and my anxiety and whatever host of other voices join in there have tried to talk me out of my skin. Those illnesses have crafty voices but they are the worst kind of liars. It’s easy to feel alone, like everything would be easier, like no one would care. These are the lies your mind tells you, the lies that illness tells you.

My family and I watched Parts Unknown, No Reservations, and the Layover. He went to interesting places, met interesting people, and ate amazing and interesting food. And he got paid to do it. To me, that sounds like a dream. He brought interesting facts and introduced cultures to so many who would never have had anything like the opportunity. He helped make the world a little more connected, a little smaller. And he did everything with attitude and snark and a knack for language. It’s a very sad day today.

I reiterate: please, if you ever feel like death is the only way out or any way out, please call someone. Please get help. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend or your mother or your child or some stranger you just met this morning.

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May Wrap Up, June Goals

How on Earth did it get to be June already? This year is going by much too fast. The kids are nearly finished with school which will make getting any real work done a little more difficult but not impossible. I’m planning on getting Bear Ridge completely finished by July. I did manage to get the Zero Draft finished and now it’s a matter of taking the bones and making them flesh and teach them to dance. Hopefully, it’ll be as good as it I think it will.

It’s been a relatively great month overall. I don’t really have any good news to share yet but I’m hopeful for some of that in the next few months. I didn’t quite make my goals for this month but there was definitely an improvement. I made 5 separate artsy things (2 of which went up on NestingDragon), I sent out 5 submissions (a very long way from my old totals but I’m wading in instead of jumping), I only missed 8 days, I went to 1 convention, attended 1 performance of my oldest child in Footloose, voted in local and primary stuff, and I wrote 25,196 words, up about 5000 from last month which makes me happy and I’m over 120,000 words for this year so far. I’m still not meeting my daily word count goals but it’s getting better every month and I’m more than ok with that.

On the health front, I think I’m getting closer to having it either under control or adjusting to the pain enough to work through it. I went hiking and my problems were more about my utter lack of fitness than my RA which is both awesome and awful. I know this last year has been really hard as far as getting moving so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself but it’s also really hard to get that fat-fairy in my head to shut her mouth – you know the one that reminds me I’m still fat because that’s a thing that can change overnight /s. I figure, once the kids are out of school, we can go to the park a few times a week and walk around for a while because I much prefer walking through the woods to walking on the sidewalk – it’s so much nicer on my feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Plus, there’s shade. I’ll get where I need to be eventually.

It’s harder to keep goals in the summer on the writing front and right now, it’s not about the word count so much as it is about getting the book done well and right. Edits don’t add a lot of words usually. They will a bit this time around while I’m adding flesh but my only goal for next month is to finish Christmas in Bear Ridge and get it right, clean and pretty, and readable so I can get it turned in. I’m not worried about the art, the crafting, or learning to use GIMP (though I’ll take any links or tips and tricks on that for after the book is done). In the end, June won’t be a letter grade sort of month but a pass/fail. I either get it done or I don’t.

Accountability has always helped me stay on track, that’s why I keep making these posts. By writing up my goals and my successes and failures, it gives me the motivation to do better, to keep striving a little harder to get it done. Hope you all have a happy and productive June!

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Filed under Crafting, Crafts, etsy, goals, Health, Life, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Writing

Knowing Enough to Know I Don’t Know Enough

Flowers in the Woods (image: Sarah Wagner)

Yet.

I posted before about getting back into photography as a way to get my artsy fix without making quite the mess I make doing other things – like painting or building strange things out of fabric, starch, plaster, and glue. Well, very quickly I discovered that film is going to be a LOT more expensive in the long run than is really worth it for me and I had a little money left over from my birthday. Bargain and thrift hunting is a thing I thoroughly enjoy and I managed to find a very old first generation dslr dirt cheap. I went Pentax because my best lenses all work with Pentax. Transitioning from a Pentax k1000 to a k100d is a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. Figuring out the lighting has been the worst and I really think a lot of that is because I wasn’t the very best at lighting to start with. It also seems that I have been using one of my lenses wrong pretty much forever.

I know enough to play with it and enough to know what it is I need to get better at. And enough to know that I need to find an adapter to make my dad’s Nikon lenses fit this camera body and the right adapter to make my longer zoom fit this body as well.

All the Ferns but none were red. (image: Sarah Wagner)

I prefer subjects related to or at least in nature and my backyard is really pretty uninteresting so I convinced the husband and kids to go with me to the local state park to hike around and let me find interesting subjects. I was pretty worried about how the body would deal with that – I’ve been doing really well lately but I know when I come back from conventions, I’m all over achy and sore. You reach a point where, in weighing the options, the reward with worth the risk. In this case, the reward was practice and pretty ferns. I got to explain to my oldest all about fiddleheads. Only one tiny shoot was still curled that way in the plants that were close to us. Some were not yet fully unfurled but no longer in that small state.

My lovely Freds!

We only did one trail and I was disgustingly sweaty and dirty by the end of it but I didn’t fall, didn’t trip over anything, and the only thing really bothering me was my left foot which never stops hurting anyway. We’re coming up on the anniversary of the first big inflammation that brought about my diagnosis and yesterday was the most physical activity I’ve been able to do since then. Dirt is so much easier on all my joints than pavement! Next time we’ll try a different trail and hope for the same.

I’ll probably share more pictures as I learn more and get better. I can see in my head what I want to do with my camera but it’s going to be a while before that really works. I do need some kind of light (I have the built-in flash and a hotfoot flash but sometimes, I need a little more for the lens that doesn’t have an aperture ring) and a tripod as my hands are a bit on the shaky side but I really do enjoy the whole process. I did when I was a kid too. I guess I forgot over the years how much fun it could be to take pictures of places and things that aren’t people. Plus, I’m a lot more observant when I’m hunting for pictures than I am pretty much any other time.

 

 

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Filed under Fun, Life, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Feeling Like Myself

For the first time in like a year really. I’ve had a pretty good week this week. I’ve gotten a LOT of words written, I sent out a set of poems, I made a dent in Mt. Laundry, read two multi-chapter volumes of a manga series (Blue Exorcist), a how-to manual, and I even made some art and put some new things into the Etsy shop. I think my one foot is just always going to be sort of sore now but I went up the stairs like I used to, before all this started! I had bloodwork done and didn’t bruise like it sometimes does, my meds didn’t make me the least bit ill, and I found out that I’ve been using one of my camera lenses wrong from the first moment I got it in 1993.

I’m mostly trying to stay busy because when I’m busy, I don’t obsess over the submissions I have out and I also don’t feel the need to munch and snack all the time. When I’m not snacking, I’m much better at losing weight. It’ll be different when I can really move better but I think that’s going to take time before I’m at that place.

I have a lot on the list of things I want to do and I’m working on it, slowly but surely. Ultimately, the goal has always been the same – I want to write a book that really matters to someone. I’ve had a lot of books that mattered to me and I want to give that to someone else. I want to make art that moves people and things that people want to have in their homes on display. If I can do that while feeling almost human? Even better!

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Filed under Books, Interesting, Life, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happiest of mother’s days to all the moms and mom figures. I hope you all had a really marvelous day and that you got to do exactly what you wanted to do!

The other day, I posted about the boy’s play… I got his permission to share!

The kid “learns” to dance.

The kid sings.

 

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So proud, I’m about to burst

I need to be a little bit braggy right now. My oldest kid has always been a ham, relishing in the spotlight (he is definitely his granddaddy’s grandson!). From the first moment that it was an option, he’s been on the stage. Right now, it’s high school productions but he is always amazing at it. I know, I’m his mom, I have to say that but really, it’s true. He gets a little annoyed sometimes about always being the comic relief type characters (Roger in Grease, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, and now Willard in Footloose) but he keeps getting that role because he’s so damn good at it (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to get pantsed or thrown across the stage or use a plunger like a microphone).

Last night was the opening night for Footloose. I was a little confused how they’d take that particular movie and make it a musical but it actually really works well – fun script! My kid had the entire theater in stitches especially when his character is trying (and failing spectacularly) to dance. It doesn’t hurt that he’s built like Jack Skellington, all limber and lanky which can either be an awkward jumble or a high kick to beat all high kicks. His physicality is just amazing and he’s downright fearless. I want to be more like him when I grow up.

He can do the real drama too – he was Poe in an Evening With Poe, doing The Raven and absolutely floored me (and a lot of other people). I can’t wait to see what this kid is doing ten years from now. The best way I can explain him is he’s like Danny Kaye and Jeff Goldblum in one body and it really seems like he was just born knowing how to fall in the craziest way possible. At least now, he doesn’t hurt himself when he does it.

If my husband gets a good clip of tomorrow night’s performance, maybe I can talk the kid into letting me share it because he really is crazy awesome. I know I wasn’t the only one laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.

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