Monday, November 26, 2012

There Goes My Career in the Major Leagues

Okay, besides the fact that I am a) too old, and b) female (though that didn't stop Jackie Mitchell from striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, just sayin'), I never really sat up nights dreaming of wearing a professional baseball uniform.

Maybe just the hat. And possibly, the jersey, after stripping 'em off some hot ballplayer.  Roz Lee's fantasy identical twins Jeff and Jason Holder come to mind.

Anyway, I never imagined *I* would be in any danger of a rotator cuff injury, seein's I'm not throwing a 90+ mph fastball.

I thought wrong.

What I thought was a pulled muscle in my bicep, turns out to be... rotator cuff tendinitis, created by many hours at my lovely yet less than ergonomically correct desk at the day job. I also discovered that it's not nearly as much fun having a hot young thing put his hands all over you when a) you're paying him to do so, and b) when every place he touches makes you whimper, and not in a good way.

The National Institute of Health says:
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula and controls movement of the shoulder joint.

The tendons of the rotator cuff pass underneath a bony area on their way to attaching the top part of the arm bone. When these tendons become inflamed, they can become more frayed over this area during shoulder movements. Sometimes, a bone spur may narrow the space even more.

This problem is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or impingement syndrome, and may be due to:
  • Keeping the arm in the same position for long periods of time, such as doing computer work or hairstyling
  • Sleeping on the same arm each night
  • Playing sports requiring the arm to be moved over the head repeatedly as in tennis, baseball (particularly pitching), swimming, and lifting weights over the head
  • Working with the arm overhead for many hours or days (such as in painting and carpentry)
  • Poor control or coordination of your shoulder and shoulder blade muscles
The culprit, in my case, is a less than ideal chair.  I need one that is higher, AND, a keyboard that is lower.

Below is the ideal arrangement.


1. Are your feet flat on the floor? Otherwise use an ergonomic footrest
2. Is your backrest supporting lumbar area?  Not enough.
3. Are your knees at a somewhat 90 degree angle?
4. Are your thighs parallel to the floor?
5. Are your elbows at a somewhat 90 degree angle? It can be slightly over but it shouldn't be less.  Mine is, in fact, less - my elbows are below the keyboard, even with the chair raised as high as possible. I thought if this would give me any problems, I'd get a warning twinge or pains in my wrists, first, some achiness there. Didn't happen for me that way.
6. Are your wrists in a neutral position? That means you can put a ruler under your lower arm to your palms. Your wrist is level with your lower arm.  Nope, they've a slightly inverted V.
7. Is the top of the monitor at eye level or just slightly lower? Otherwise there will surely be neck strain.
8. Is the monitor off at an arm's length? 

Mind you, my desk at home is perfect. Do I spend as many hours at it? No. Should I have paid more attention to my day job workstation?  D'uh.  Do I work for a great company who is happy to address the matter the moment I opened my mouth and asked? Yes.

Because I do get up from my desk to do other things around the office, I foolishly did not realize, until such time as the pain - which started in the middle of my bicep, not my shoulder - kept getting worse and worse, and had no clue it could be related to the goofy chair I use in my day job.

Now I am doing exercises and icing this bad girl, and going chair shopping at the earliest opportunity - but it will be weeks, if not months, till I can pitch for the Dodgers again.

Or just sleeping through the night. This business is no joke, so please, be smarter than I was and do not wait until you are hurting, even a little bit, to take care of your body.

Have you ever let an injury go, because it was no big deal?
And then it was?
Your thoughts?

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Would You Eat Your Dead Dog? And Other Books I've been Reading

I have been reading not just until the cows comes home, but until they are mooing, sitting in my lap, and proclaiming (in Cow-ese) "If you don't TCOB, bitch, I'm going to make you VERY sorry."

So, I'm finally getting around to reviewing some of the many fabulous books I've read in the last few months.

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Until My Soul Gets It Right - Karen Wojcik Berner (Women's Fiction)

Our heroine, Catherine Ebert, has always been "bigger" than the small Wisconsin farmtown in which she grew up - at least, in her own mind. She landed the part of "Ado Annie" in the local high school production of Oklahoma, but her straitlaced forbid her to take such an "immoral role."

She escapes to Portland, Maine, just because she saw it on TV, and later, to San Diego, but her life is based upon running from and rebelling from her parents; then upon a wealthy husband. How does Catherine sort out who SHE is, amongst all the rebellion?

The Bibliophiles is a series Ms. Berner is writing, based upon different characters who attend a suburban Illinois readers' group. What's here (in the series, so far) is slow, character growth,  not a tremendous amount of external conflict or decision-making. No guns are fired (at least, not yet), nothing blows up,  but there is a great deal going on under some still waters.

For myself, I enjoyed  "Soul" more than "Whisper," but they are both interesting books.

 A Whisper to a Scream  - Karen Wojcik Berner (Women's Fiction)

Annie has always wanted children, and has married into a family whose abundant fertility taunts her at every holiday gathering. Sarah has two children she loves dearly, but the lack of focus, of purpose, of anything except being a mommy is slowly driving her insane.

What I loved: the characters are beautifully drawn, the reader can totally relate to the pain and frustration of each woman, the whole "grass is always greener syndrome," as well as showing how silly the whole "Mommy wars" are.

What slowed me down: they aren't stories, per se, with a beginning, middle, and end, more a pastiche of these women's lives. And though they are connected via their shared readers' group, there isn't an "a-ha!" moment where each realizes the grass ISN'T greener on the other side.

An interesting debut book from an author I am sure will continue to offer interesting work as time goes on.

Would You Eat Your Dead Dog?

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (non-fiction, psychology)

These kind of questions do get your attention - whether, if the family dog was struck by a car and killed, and the family decided to eat it, rather than dispose of the body in a more traditional way - and nobody knew - is that really "wrong"?

How do we measure morality, in different cultures and economic classes? What is the moral basis of the positions that liberals take, vs. conservatives, vs. libertarians?

Although sometimes it got a little wonky, all in all it was a page turner and offered some fascinating information and ideas. It will certainly help me approach discussions with people of opposite religious and/or political viewpoints from a different direction and with a better understanding of where they may be coming from.

How to Knit a Wild Bikini  - Christie Ridgway (Contemporary Romance)

So, basically I attacked these books backwards. It's a series of three; I read the last, first; then the second, then the first.

Each works fine as a stand-alone (something much easier acknowledged than carried out), but this was the genesis of the series. Nikki has been a chef, but her knee injury is making it impossible to continue in her chosen profession. So serving as private chef to magazine editor Jay Buchanan seems like the perfect opportunity to rest her knee while still saving funds in hopes of a knee operation, someday...

So what if Jay is something of a professional bachelor? The sparks between these two are hot, the backstory that holds these characters apart is plausible, and the sex scenes are delightfully steamy.  It's a very fun read, but not devoid of serious issues regarding men, women, rape, and the effect of family upbringings.

Cover for Demon Hunt by Christine AshworthDemon Hunt - Christine Ashworth (Paranoramal Romance)

Just when you thought it was safe to lust after demons... turns out they're not so wonderful, after all.  At least, the full demons being brought over into the Human Plane, are not so much fun (unless you like having your leg ripped off at the knee, the better to have your toes consumed by a scary, four-armed demon).

Now, tribred (demon, fae, and human) Gregor Caine is another breed, indeed. Yummy, caring, but afraid of "letting go" to either his daemon or fae side.  Helping to draw him to embrace his fae side is utterly embraceable warrior fae Serra Willows.  Yes, we don't think of fairies as warriors (even clad in Village People style boots) but slender, beautiful Serra kicks a-- with the best of them, something that is difficult at first for Gregor, inclined to be a smidge of a chauvinistic protector-type, to accept.

I love that Serra is a skilled warrior, and that Gregor learns to value this side of her.  The action is compelling, the sexual tension (and activity) is hot, and the ending, where both partners MUST work together, is completely satisfying. Love this book, can't wait till the next.

Desire's Edge - Eve Berlin (BDSM Romance)
I went into this expecting to LOVE it, since I adored Eve Berlin's Pleasure's Edge , and I did enjoy it, tremendously... but I didn't love it as intensely. I've been struggling, since, to figure out why.

Maybe I'm just suffering water-envy. Set in Seattle, there's a lot of waterplay in the shower. For myself, living in SoCal, which is perennial drought territory, you would no more think of endless sexplay while RUNNING WATER in the shower than you would consider eating a kitten for breakfast. So I know, I had this big cultural taboo "thing" to try to get past that was bigger than any of the other BDSM issues. Tie me up, spank me, bring out a crop, sure, but leave the water running in the shower? What kind of sick pervert ARE you?

I loved the sex scenes between Kara and Dante, but I didn't feel the barriers between them were big enough/believable enough. Which sapped some of the tension and the satisfaction level of the ending.

That said, both were interesting characters, and the sex scenes were hot, hot HOT. I'm still a major fan of Ms. Berlin and her work, and this is a book well worth reading.

I Never Thought It Would Happen, Either

File:Ebcosette.jpgI did it!!  I finished Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (classic lit'rature), in under 3 hours like Paul Ryan on his marathon. (Just kidding!)

Okay, realistically, it took me FOREVER.  (And the time seemed much, much longer. Just like a marathon.)

I do recommend reading at least a few smidgens of this book, which will make anyone and everyone appreciate the value of EDITORS.  Holy underground plumbing, Batman, you place two of your main characters into the sewers of Paris with the soldiers in hot pursuit, and then digress into the care and feeding of sewers in ancient Rome? And the way the sewers were at the time the novel was actually written, and then, eventually, dozens of pages later, wander back into the way sewers existed  at the time our peeps were hiding out in them.

This after there is basically a bullet by bullet description of Napoleon's last stand (one of them, anyway) in some obscure little town, of which the salient facts are this one guy kind of sort of saved this other guy's life, not on purpose, but because Guy A was looting Guy B's person.  Pages and pages of philosophy, anecdotes which have nothing to do with the price of cheese or bread... Apparently  Hugo poured brain vomit onto page after page until he ran out of paper.

Mon Dieu! A pen, a pen, my kingdom for a red pen!

All in all, Les Mis is a worthwhile read because it shed immense light on the way true drama and character are timeless, and also, on the way writing and editing have changed over the course of time. But be warned; it's a slog.  Unabridged, it's something like 1500 pages.

A Week to be WickedA Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove)  - Tessa Dare (Regency Romance)

Tessa Dare won the 2012 RITA® for her novel A Night To Surrender. I have to admit, I am a newfound Tessa Dare fan, and I really liked A Night To Surrender, and also, A Lady by Midnight. Will review on Amazon & GoodReads sometime soon.

But I LOVED A Week To Be Wicked. Seriously, a geeky girl with glasses, hooks up with THE hot guy in town?

"I demand you ruin me. As a point of honor."

Hilarious, all the way through... Our bespectacled heroine, Minerva is a serious geologist, for pity's sake; our hero, Colin, seems to be a heartless rake but has unexpected depths.  The tension between these two is HOT; the sex even steamier, but there is so much humor mixed in that there isn't a single page of filler. Together their goal is to get the plaster cast of Minerva's astounding discovery of a fossil footprint (nicknamed Francine) to the meeting of the Royal Geological Society of Scotland, so there's a ticking clock. 

If you enjoy laughing and steamy, sexy romance, buy this book.

North Africa is Calling

The Belly Dancer mmp book coverThe Belly Dancer  - DeAnna Cameron (Historical Romance)

Society bride Dora Chambers is participating as a "Lady Manager" of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. I loved the idea of entering this world; there are many Regency or earlier historical novels, but very few in either this time period or this locale.

I eventually liked Dora as a character, but felt she developed... choppily. She was hard to hook into, at first, a bit of a helpless victim, and it seemed that, once she did begin learning to dance, it transformed her almost too quickly. Her extramarital love affair also felt rushed, and her partner a little too... liberal? undemanding? The husband was too unsympathetic... when she made her final decision, it wasn't as if she was breaking with anything good or lasting.

The details of the dance were excellent, and I loved that Egyptian dancer Amina took Dora in and mentored her. I will be returning to this world.

The Sheikh's Redemption (Harlequin Desire Series #2165)The Sheikh's Redemption - Olivia Gates (Series Romance)

We start with an abused child, brutally trained by his mother not to trust anyone, ever. So while it may be somewhat hard to relate to alpha male Haidar, at first, we can remember the hurt child.

Despite his conditioning, he'd fallen in love with Roxanne, and she with him. Thanks to Mommy Dearest, their romance ended, years back,but when she returned to the small desert kingdom of Azmahar, the sparks fly again. She's there to help Haidar's estranged twin brother, her best friend Jalal, press his claim to the throne of Azmahar.

Exotic location, alpha male, strong female, sizzling romance - what's not to love?

This was a sexy, tasty, fast read. 

The Bird Sisters  - Rebecca Rasmussen (Lit'rary Fiction)

The writing itself is lovely. We start with two elderly sisters, who nurse wounded birds back to health. There's much symbolism in the idea that once a bird lost its ability to fly, there wasn't much to be done with him.

There was a sense of slow unfolding, as the story of the summer of 1947 is told in flashback; the sisters' parents troubled marriage, their slightly older cousin Bett staying with them for the summer, Milly's blooming romance with Asa. The scenery is gorgeous; I could almost smell the pond they swam in.

I liked it, and yet, something felt unfinished. Milly and Twiss as elderly women didn't seem to either have made full peace with their lives, or be holding onto resentment about the way events turned out so differently, and that seems... unlikely.

Burn Me Up, Buttercup

Danger Zone coverDanger Zone (Adrenaline Highs)  - Dee J. Adams (Romantic Suspense)

This is the second book in the series, but while we get to brush up against the characters we loved in Dangerous Race, this book works beautifully as a stand alone.

Ellie Morgan is a professional stuntwoman at the top of her game - except for one teensy handicap, that her best friend Ashley has helped her cover up since high school. She. Can't. Read. She's dyslexic, but nobody figured it out, just passed her along, while managing to trash her self-esteem by taunts and scoldings about how stupid she was.

When Quinn Reynolds comes onto her latest set, he makes an ass of himself. Later, there's incredible heat between the two of them, but... he's returning to England in two weeks, and Ellie doesn't do casual sex.

But when it seems someone is trying to kill him - or is it her? They find themselves thrown together in those adrenaline high situations that lead inevitably to bed. And love, even if that wasn't on the agenda, either.

This book moves, it includes some exciting stunts and very steamy sex between two people who find a way to make it work in the end.

Book CoverChasing Fire - Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense)

This book brought back home to me why I generally don't like murder mysteries. Either they play by the rules and introduce us to the murderer in the first few chapters, then try to convince us that s/he was too nice/helpful/religious/clean-and-neat to be the murderer, OR it's a total stranger or aliens from the planet of WTF. I knew in this book who the murderer was pretty much from the get-go. And as people are getting picked off one at a time, pretty soon you've only got a couple people it could be, anyway.

That said, it was an interesting look at the whole Smoke Jumping profession, if bogged down a bit with too much minutiae.  I appreciate that the research was so extensive, but every single fire-fighting factoid did not need to make it onto the page.

Rowan was a bit of an ass - there was no good reason for her either to resist getting involved with Gull, or to suddenly change her mind and start banging him at every possible moment. (And did both of them have to have goofy names?) I did like the romance between her father and the schoolteacher, that felt very real.

Roberts is a great writer, in terms of everything flows, characters are well drawn, scenes are laid out nicely, but... sometimes less is more.

Paranormal Creatures Need Therapy, Too

Coveted - Shawntelle Madison (Urban Fantasy)

Natalya is a Jersey Girl, a werewolf, and a hoarder of holiday ornaments. Yes, a hoarder, as in boxes up to the ceiling of the unlivable living room, hoarder.

Cast out from her pack as the weak link, she has uncertain allies in her family, in her former boyfriend Thorn, and her goblin boss, Bill. Plus her old/new best friend, Aggie. Against her - against her pack, though she's an outcast - is the Long Island pack, ready to move in on the South Toms River territory.

There were many, many things I loved about this book. Natalya's sprawling Russian family. Her parananormal therapy group, including a hoarding wizard, a mermaid who's afraid of the water, a Muse, and other supernatural beings - loved, loved, loved.  The beginning scene with her and Thorn was steamy goodness.

But... too many things unexplained. The Long Island pack is not well fleshed out, they're just the baddies that want to take over.  Thorn is still hanging around and being protective of Natalya, even though he's been ordered not to - why? What is he risking? Why does he simply lurk and not kiss her?

Natalya's illness is described as OCD, but having lived with a hoarder who was OCPD, plus having many friends in those communities; her symptoms (ordering, perfectionism, cleanliness obsession) seem to match up more closely with OCPD (+ hoarding), than OCD. It's one of my/our pet peeves, when OCPD is described as OCD, because although they can be co-morbid, they're very different mental illnesses, and OCPD is vastly underdiscussed and undertreated.

Still a very interesting read, and I will certainly look for more by this author.

Left on my TBR list from December:
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo  Bitch, you are done!

Daisy Miller - Henry James
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

Added to my TBR list, already on my Kindle or bookshelf:

A Heart to Mend - Myne Whitman
The Doctor's Lady - Jody Hedlund
Dev Dreams - Ruth Madison
My Cheeky Angel - Mimi Barbour
Katie's Hellion - Lizzy Ford
Romance Novel - PJ Jones
Living in Gratitude - Angeles Arrien
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Train Your Mind, Change Your Life - Sharon Begley
Water - Terra Harmony
The Cowboy's Pride - Charlene Sands
The Bird Sisters - Rebecca Rasmussen
Mercury Rising - Daisy Harris
The Brenda Diaries - Margo Candela
Hollywood Ending - Lucie Simone
Are You There, Vodka?  It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
Melt - Natalie Anderson
Beauty and the Werewolf (A Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms)  - Mercedes Lackey
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
His Strength - Kiru Taye
Just The Way You Are - Barbara Freethy
Bloodchild and Other Stories - Octavia E. Butler
Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
Twelve Times Blessed - Jacqueline Mitchard
Danger Zone - Dee J. Adams
The Possibility of You - Pamela Redmond
Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende
Alpha Wolf - Linda O. Johnston
Asphodel (The Underworld Trilogy) - Lauren Hammond
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Witches of East End - Melissa de la Cruz
The Comic Toolbox - John Vorhaus
A Week to  Be Wicked - Tessa Dare
The Belly Dancer - DeAnna Cameron
Caught in the Act - Jill Sorenson
Elizabeth I - Margaret George
How to Knit A Wild Bikini - Christie Ridgway
Somewhere in Time - Richard Matheson
Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton
Fired Up - Jayne Ann Krentz
Fragrance of Violets - Paula Martin
Can't Buy Me Love - Maggie Marr
Colters' Wife - Maya Banks
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
Common Sense - Thomas Paine
Lady Susan - Jane Austen
The Heir - Grace Burrowes
Seeing Spots - Ericka Scott
Dating My Vibrator - Suzanne Tyrpak
The Backworlds - M. Pax
Leistra's Rhapsody - RYJC

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?  
Have you read any of the books I read?  
What did you think?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Desk of a Thousand Scraps

I admit it - I'm Old School. I don't record ideas on an iPad or into a recorder; I don't text bits of brilliant dialogue to myself. I scribble them on my ever-present steno pad, or, if needs must, onto Post-It notes or napkins.

The theory is, I will shortly transfer said scraps of paper from their gathering place on my desk into actual WordPerfect documents. (Told you I was Old School - I don't even like to write in Word - doesn't everyone knows that WP is a much, much better program?)  So I take notes with pen on paper. It's only temporary, I tell myself.

Reality? I end up with all kinds of crap piled on my desk that I plan to do something with, eventually. A poster I want to hang, a book I want to write a review of, notes from my last crit session I need to integrate into my WIP. Subway napkins. E-book gift cards. My grandfather's obituary from 1963 - the actual newspaper clipping, which I have already scanned & uploaded to

I don't know WTF to do with the original, yellowing scrap of newspaper. I don't want to throw it away, that seems cold, but it's not like I have anything useful to do with it. So, it's been living on my desk for about a year now.

 Rick Wakeman's Dance of a Thousand Lights, from The Return to the Centre of the Earth
Much more appealing than the desk of a thousand scraps.

Having reached the point where my poor desk can't hold any more scraps or crap, it's time to clear it, and maybe my head at the same time.

Now I'm looking at some of my scribbles and having either no idea why I thought it was brilliant, or, difficulty reading my own damn handwriting.

Here's a list of possible characters for a WIP. Ventriloquist. Magician. Pot brownie lady. Tweaker.

Why did I want a Bandage Queen in this story? I don't even know what a bandage queen would be - maybe like Mila Jojo-whatshername in Fifth Element?

Oh.... I wrote Bondage Queen.

That fits.

Here's some song titles, that I was going to center blog posts around. Pete Townsend's Stop Trying to Make Me Real. America's You Can Do Magic.  How/why, I have forgotten. Mystery phone numbers - adios!

Oh, look, here's that April Romance Writers Report magazine I never quite finished.

Awesomesauce, I found my "inspire" key from SoCal Lady Bloggers, via Whitney Howard Designs. It's part of the "swag bag" my beautiful friend Sid put together for our meeting last spring, and I was really bummed when I couldn't find it.

Voilá, here's the "how-to" booklet for my new(ish) smartphone. I guess I put that on my desk so it would be handy. *snort*

But, now that I have unearthed the directions, I can plug all these business card bits of info into my Contacts, then file. Hopefully I will not overwrite with FaceBook info again and lose half my phone numbers.

Water jug tab thingies that the cat likes to chase across the floor. Obviously those need to be on the desk. (not.)

Complimentary hotel hand lotion - about one use - leftover from RWA conference this summer. We certainly don't want to waste that.

An old menstrual calendar, year unknown. Bye-bye! My 401-k quarterly report - sadly, it's clear I won't be retiring in luxury anytime this century.

Here's more notes on that WIP - I wanted to have an author neighbor who lives in a house that looks like 1313 Mockingbird Lane and writes light inspirational pieces, Chicken Soup-y kinds of things.

Woo-hoo, there's that extra coaster I was looking for!

And when all is filed and shredded and input, you can actually see the wood of the desk. (I could orange oil it, it's quite thirsty, but have run out of energy and ambition. Over TG weekend, perhaps.)

I am not sure whether I was having a hard time writing because my desk was such a mess, or I let it get that way to serve as my excuse for not writing.  But now I have cleared the decks, so it's clear sailing for a few more weeks, anyway.

Do you keep a clean desk, 
or a messy one?
What crap is on your desk right now that really doesn't belong there?
Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Clawing My Way to Rightside Up

Mud Puddle Stompers
Mud Puddle Stompers (Photo credit: clappstar)
You ever step in a puddle, or a hole, and discover, much too late, that sucker was a LOT deeper than you thought it was?

This would be me, in October.

And then there was a monster at the bottom of the hole that grabbed my ankle.

You see, I had this brilliant idea. I decided to go into the dark on my newest novel, go for a psychological thriller. Lead a woman into a relationship that turns emotionally and physically violent, then lead her out again (and touch on emotional violence towards men, as well).

After all, I've lived it myself, and am now at a safe distance from it (or so I thought). And October is Domestic Violence awareness month in the US.  So I figured I could solicit guest posts on the subject, which would serve the dual purpose of bringing awareness on the subject, AND help me research other points of view. Easy-peasy, right?

I did not expect to become emotionally overwhelmed by the stories I was reading.  So much so that it was difficult to format and post them, let alone look at the comments. I totally fell down on the job of visiting other blogs and so forth, because I barely had the energy to drag myself off to my day job.

Then the monster grabbed my ankle.

My Mother In Law Is Still Sitting Between Us...
I had a friend, entangled  in a relationship similar to mine. I had been trying to gently encourage Sidney  (not hover or push, because that tends to have the opposite effect) to save herself for the last year or so, but I knew she had to do it in her own time and space.  Like my own ex, her boyfriend was/is not deliberately evil; there are mental health issues in play.  I knew all too well the emotional trap of, "He doesn't mean to say and do the things he does; he just can't help himself. And he is always really sorry."

Regardless of the "why" behind it, being at the receiving end of constant verbal and emotional abuse is degrading to the heart and soul. I could see in my friend the same drip, drip, drip of her spirit being eroded one nasty word at a time, that I once experienced.

I was becoming increasingly concerned for Sid's well-being, especially after she spent nearly a week in the hospital in late August. Note: her boyfriend did not physically put her there.  But she had been coping with the stress/anguish as many women (and men) do, by turning to an outside "thing": drink, food, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling. In her case, alcohol, and it was destroying her liver.  She finally confided, after she left the hospital this summer, that she knew if she didn't leave him, it would kill her. So she was making plans to leave.

So I thought, too, that the upcoming domestic violence subject would help solidify Sid's decision and prevent second thoughts, since she frequently read my blogs and I read hers.  Maybe I could help at least one person.

On September 20, she left him. The following weekend, her mother helped her get all her boxes unpacked. On the 22nd I got a chirpy e-mail from her: "I'm in my own place now!"

We met to chat and have a (non-alcoholic) drink a few days later.  Sid shyly invited me up to her new apartment. She was so proud, and happy.  Free of the toxic environment, looking forward to doing all kinds of things that had been restricted to her before. Like having company over!

She was also terribly thin and weak looking - though she did look better than she had in August right after she left the hospital.

I fussed over her a bit. Sid assured me she was following doctor's orders, on all kinds of supplements for her wonky potassium level. She reminded me that she was a grown woman, after all.

Over the next few weeks, we texted and FB'd each other back and forth almost every day. I called her a couple of times. It's such a fine line, wanting to be supportive, but not obsessively helicoptering, because, after all, she was a grown woman. And you can't help someone get over being in a controlling relationship by being controlling yourself.  Sid seemed to need her privacy, and I understood this, because in the first few months after leaving my ex, I too wanted to be left alone to lick my wounds without having to constantly explain how I felt to friends and family. Let me sort it out, and get back to you in my own time, okay? was how I felt.

Cue the monster. 

On Saturday, October 20, Sid went MIA. On the 21st, having been discovered passed out on the floor of her new apartment, she was in the hospital in critical condition.

There was no alcohol in her system. She'd apparently had a heart attack, sometime Friday night/Saturday morning, then a second one in the hospital on Sunday. Her small, thin, overstressed body did not have enough physical resources left to get her through.

On Monday, the 22nd, I was there with her parents and her ex when they took her off the respirator. She was beautiful and funny and vibrant and 43 years old.

I feel non-productively guilty, because I did think about calling her or texting her Friday night. But... I was hanging out with another girlfriend who I'd hadn't seen in forever, and I didn't want to be rude to the friend I was physically with, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to wait till the next day. If I had excused myself for five minutes and tried to contact Sid anyway, would it have made any difference?

Maybe, and maybe not. I do know that here is yet another time when I've overruled my gut instinct and later regretted it.  I do it - the overruling, instead than obeying my "gut" - a lot less frequently than I used to, yet I still do it. (Why, why?!) I know Sid would forgive me.  I know that it might have made no difference at all, and yet...

What I could and did do was help Sid's family have a nice memorial/celebration of life for her. Which was a big job in many ways, and yet feels like so little, so inadequate. I wanted to celebrate Sid's life with her, not after she died!

There are benefits to being broke, because that forces me to get up, wash my face, and get dressed every day, since I need the paycheck. But other than that, I've just wanted to watch TV, escape into books, eat, and sleep.  And cry.

It's painful being on the blogosphere without Sid, without being able to talk about each others' posts, to send each other links half a dozen times a day, "You've got to read THIS one!"  She was an expert Tweeter, and had promised to show me all the ins and outs of the beast I still can't manage well.  I am about to calendar our crit group's first meeting since, well, since, and remove her from the address book. That thought burns, probably why I've been putting it off.

I've dreamed about her; you know, that classic denial dream where the whole death thing was all a mistake. Just a big silly misunderstanding.

And then I wake up.

I know as time goes on, I will feel less overwhelmed. I totally appreciate that people understand so much more about grief, these days. Not getting too much of the "It's all for the best," or "Jesus wanted the prettiest flowers for his garden," well-meaning but non-helpful condolences we all used to get in the past.

For now, I don't much want to blog, or visit other blogs. Could be, shortly, I become the Mad Blogger all over again, with thoughts and emotions itching to be expressed in cyberspace, and that's okay, too. I am trying to give myself the time and space and support I would give to another friend going through the same loss.  To let myself feel sad, angry, bereft, guilty, helpless, betrayed, alone, confused, determined... to feel whatever I need to feel, in the moment, rather than trying to talk myself into feeling some other, "more acceptable" feeling.

So, if you've been visiting here over the past month, and thinking, WTH, why is that rude woman not following blog etiquette and visiting back?!  It's me, not you. I'm sorry; I know I've been very rude. I've actually visited some blogs back, and sat there, staring, unable to type a word. Right now I am emotionally clawing my way out of a dark, deep hole. But I will be back, and I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I do want to put out a plea - if YOU are in an emotionally abusive relationship (whether you're male or female), please don't wait until you are at the end of your rope to reach for help, or to leave. View any of the October posts here for links and phone numbers that can help you.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

It Takes A Community #domesticviolence

Just a little late for Domestic Violence Awareness month in the US, but right on time for Domestic Violence month in her native Canada, here's Louise Gallagher's guest post, It Takes A Community.

Cinderella and Prince Charming
via starrynight_012 at
Flickr Creative Commons
Once upon a time I loved a man who was not true. When he was arrested and I was set free, I wanted to mourn the relationship that was too good to be true. I wanted to grieve the man with whom I'd fallen in love. But he did not exist.

How could I mourn a dream? How could I grieve a figment of my imagination? Where was the substance to the chimera of his being in my life?

When first I was set free, I tried to mourn the man I thought he was and ended up grieving for the woman who was betrayed. Me.

I grieved for that woman who believed in Prince Charming and awoke to her worst nightmare raging in the night. I grieved for the woman who believed no one could willingly, knowingly, consciously create such evil and who then had to awaken to the truth, someone did and that someone had once promised to love her, 'til death do us part, and had actively engaged in making the death part come true.

I grieved for the woman whose hungry heart led her into his arms. I grieved the woman who had to give up on believing in herself in order to keep believing in him. And I grieved the woman who almost lost her life because she could not believe she deserved to live.

I grieved that woman who was me, who was so wounded, battered and bruised upon the road of life she was willing to follow her magical thinking into the nightmare of his lies. She was betrayed.

But I did not grieve him.

I prayed for him. I prayed for him a miracle, for only a miracle will set him free. And in my prayers, I let him go.

Dandelion wish (88/365)
via LifeSuperCharger at Flickr Creative Commons

When first I stumbled off that road to hell I could not feel my heart within me. I could not feel the warmth of the sun upon my face. I could not feel.

In healing, I have opened up to all my feelings. I have embraced my life and fallen into love with all of me. My joy, my sorrow, my pain, my elation. I accept all of me and what happened to me. It is of my past. It is not my future. I accept that I have changed. Something in me died and that which is gone, shall never be again. But my loving memories of that woman who was abused are tenderly held within my heart forevermore as I become all that I am meant to be, today and every day.

In healing, I let go of what happened to me then and rejoice in the wonder, the beauty, the joy of being alive today. In living, I create my poem of love that says, this is my one and only life, it is mine to love and cherish.

Once upon a time I was an abused woman. Today, I am free to live in the rapture of now, standing tall, loving life, loving being me.

I am blessed. In my healing I have had help along the way, many people to support me and love me back to well-being.

I could not have done it alone.

It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to heal the broken dreams of one who has been abused.

Louise Gallagher is the writer/producer of At the Heart of Centre Stage, a one hour documentary for Global National TV. Her book, The Dandelion Spirit, and her blogs Recover Your Joy/A Year of Making A Difference, are aimed to help people heal from "relationships of the hurting kind."

Her Tedx talk, below, explores the process of healing and the role of volunteering in recovering one's own soul and spirit.

Domestic Violence Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  TTY- 1-800-787-3224  
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network 1.800.656.HOPE
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI

National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - you will need to opt for English or French

Women's Aid - 0808 2000 247

Australia & New Zealand:
Domestic Violence Information Manual - phone numbers vary by territory

For Male Victims:
Why Men Stay in Abusive Relationships

This concludes my Domestic Violence series.
Do you know women and men who have endured domestic violence,
and not only survived, but thrived afterwards, like Louise?
Please join me in thanking Louise for sharing her story.