Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Secrets Are You Hiding?

We all have secrets.

Anyone who says they don't is either lying to you or to themselves.

For me, I have more secrets than I care to admit.

I am an extremely private person. Probably seems ironic considering this is a personal blog and that I am very honest in what I write.

However, I do have some anonymity here. While some people I know do read this blog, I do my best to keep it from my family and friends who might sit in judgment or gossip in such a way that it would hurt my family.

Even so, I do not disclose my deepest secrets to you.

I have a wide range of secrets that include things that I have done for which I am ashamed or regretful and things that have happened that are painful or embarrassing.

Yet the things that I try to hold secret more than these are secrets of my thoughts and character.

We all think things we shouldn't. We all have moments that would expose chinks in the persona we present to the world.

The persona I do my best to present to the world is that of a strong, kind, compassionate, thoughtful and loving person.

I am those things most of the time.

There are some individuals that bring out the worst in me. Some that inspire thoughts so full of contempt and rage that I would be beyond mortified if others could read my mind.

Some things are intertwined. Some of my actions or experiences I keep secret because I do not want to expose those chinks. Those imperfections in who I am. Imperfections that would cause others to look at me differently.

I know there is no such thing as perfection, but I have always attempted to be as close to it as I can. In some ways, I'd rather keep up the facade than show my flaws.

What kind of secrets are you hiding?

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Blogging Friendships

When I first started blogging last July, I had no idea what to expect.

I had never blogged, other than a private blog on Myspace, and I didn't know the rules or niceties. I didn't expect anything from blogging other than earning a little money and being able to write.

I'm a writer living in a situation that doesn't really allow me to write the way I'd like to. I have written a novel, but can't work on the editing often because my living situation inhibits my writing style.

When I write fiction, I need to spread myself out and have quiet. Not something I get in this house. No room for spreading and constant chatter and interruptions.

I was thrilled to be able to write, even if it wasn't for my first born (read novel).

It took me a few weeks to get into a groove but I was enjoying the freedom to write. I started picking up the rules and niceties of blogging along the way.

What I had never expected, though, was to gain friendships.

It may seem absurd to non-blogger people, but blogging can create friendships among strangers.

For the most part, the people I have connected with through blogging truly care about each other and the world around them.

I hear jokes made about bloggers all the time, but my guess is they are not really seeing the people behind the blogs.

There are some incredibly intelligent, gifted writers.

There are some fascinating and funny people.

There are some people with real stories that could move even the hardest heart to tears.

There are people with so much knowledge and experience to share.

There are people that care greatly about humanity and would go out of their way to help a stranger.

I've found people in the same state all the way to other continents with whom I have developed a friendship. It doesn't matter what race, religion, political affiliation, age, gender, sexual orientation. On the internet, through blogging, the differences mean nothing.

I am beyond happy to have made these connections over the last several months. I am so proud to call you my friends.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Honey Buns

Some strange man called me that today. "Hey, Honey Buns!"

I ignored him, of course.

I was entering a grocery store and there were 2 cars stopped at the stop sign allowing pedestrians to cross.

I heard him say something a few times, but it didn't register because I figured he wasn't talking to me.

Then I heard him say it more clearly followed by a short whistle to get my attention and "Hey, Honey Buns!"

When I got inside I turned to look out the window and he was trying to flag someone down. Not sure if he had to ask a question or was looking for money.

Either way, I laughed and thought, if that's the case, a much more effective way to get someone to stop might be to say, "excuse me, miss."

If I don't know you, I don't respond to "baby," "sugar," "sweet thang," "doll," or any such nickname you might find suitable for a woman.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Multiple Sclerosis - Has It Touched Someone You Loved?

Many of you know that my uncle is living with MS.

He was diagnosed about 20 years ago after having some blurry vision, tingling limbs and stumbling a bit.

For years, he lived with very few symptoms and went into remission a few times.

However, as the years passed and his stress increased, the MS grew.

What is MS?

According to the MS Society, MS is defined as:

"Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease."

One of the worse things for MS is stress.

Around the time that my uncle was diagnosed, his father passed away suddenly. He was raising his 2 sons on his own because his wife, the love of his life to this day, was a drug addict and abandoned them.

She came in and out of their lives until she died of a drug overdose about 12 years ago. During that time, the stress of her behavior, unexpected appearances, pleas for cash and the turmoil it caused for his sons pushed that stress further.

I believe it was when she died that the stress allowed his MS to take over. As I said, she was and is still the love of his life. He's never remarried and really never dated after she left. His sons fell into a bad way following in her footsteps of self-destructive behavior.

His MS caused him to be reliant on a motorized scooter, though he was able to walk and stand for short times up until 8 years ago.

He couldn't get around as well and his children had caused him a lot of emotional and financial heartache. He had to sell his business and his home. He became 100% reliant on that scooter.

As the last 8 years have progressed, his condition has drastically deteriorated. He is now confined to his bed with zero use of his legs or his left arm. Unfortunately, he has feeling in those limbs so he experiences all the pain that comes with MS without the function we all take for granted.

He can't hold his head up straight. He has lost all dignity in having his sister care for him, change his bedding, bathe him, tend to his wounds from being confined to bed, apply external catheters and tend to his every need.

He can still brush his own teeth and shave once someone brings it to him. He can still feed himself once someone prepares it for him and sets it on his tray.  Yet he maintains his sense of humor.

Others are more fortunate. We have a family friend who is in good shape. She's had it for about as long and has been in remission. Each case is different, but each individual is living in uncertainty.

It's a heartbreaking disease. My uncle is too far gone for some of the newer medications to help. Most of them are for people who are better off than he is. I don't know if they will find a cure or a treatment for people like him in his lifetime, though I hope and pray they do.

If you would like to help, please click to the right to donate for the MS Walk for a cure.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A New Angel

A few weeks ago a friend of mine lost her sister-in-law. Less than a year ago, her sister-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. She was pregnant with her second child.

They took the baby early and he was attached to tubes for several weeks. They began chemo to treat the leukemia aggressively.

The poor woman was sick for most of her baby’s life, but she was fighting hard so she could stay in his life.
They thought she was doing well. In fact the week before, we asked how she was and my friend said she was doing pretty good. Something happened and she took a turn for the worse.

She asked her family to take her kids home because she did not want them seeing her like that. A few days later she passed away.

My friend is in shock. I can’t say I blame her. You never expect someone 35 years old to die, even if they are sick.

My niece heard my sister talking about it on the phone and asked what happened.
My niece asked how old the woman was. My sister told her and my niece said, “but Mom, that’s your age.”
My sister could see the panic in her face and told her that sometimes people who are young like mommy get sick and they die, but sometimes they live as long as great-grandma.
That helped ease her fears.

I never met my friend’s sister-in-law. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about her. I can’t stop thinking about how devastated her family must be. I can’t stop thinking about her husband and her children.

Her family has set up a website in tribute to her, a woman who spent her life helping those with cancer, only to succumb to the disease herself. May she and her family find peace.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Re-Reading Love Medicine

A couple of months ago, I read a post at Flitting on Fiction, which has been replaced with Flitting through Canadian Fiction about re-reading books. A lot of people re-read, but a lot don't.

I think that is why people enjoy libraries so much. They can read it once and not have to find a place to keep it.

I, however, keep and cherish my books. It's an obsession as much as a collection. I have always loved the look, feel, smell of books. I love the sound of the page turning. This is a huge part of why I do not want a Kindle. I can see the appeal to people, especially those that travel a lot, but for me, I like the actual paper book.

I would love one day to have a house in which I can dedicate one room as a library. I am already running out of room for my books.

I don't re-read everything, though it's possible that in time I might.

I always re-read if a new book in a series comes out. For example, Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series. These are among some of my favorite books.

I have re-read a lot of books in college too. Books I read in High School that we covered again in college or in different classes in different years in college.

I don't re-read other books that often, but this week I picked up one I loved in college and haven't read since.

Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine.

I had gotten several books by Louise Erdrich from my wish list for Christmas. I was looking at them and decided I'd go back and re-read the book that made me love her as an author.

I am not certain if I simply forgot or just have a new appreciation for her work.

Her writing is so lyrical and poetic. She has a way of painting an image while allowing the words to flow like water. Erdrich, like many Native American authors, incorporates the traditional story telling into their written story. I think this is what gives it the fluidity and vivid imagery.

Her writing style reminds me a bit of Maya Angelou as well as Toni Morrison.

Love Medicine covers many themes including those common to all of us such as love, relationships, family, loss and the like.

She also covers themes intrinsic to the Native American/Indian (whichever term you prefer) experience. Themes like the old, traditional ways vs. the new, modern ways.

Some of the themes are layered atop each other because one is not possible without the other.

For example, the old vs. the new holds within it the theme of the languages - English vs. Chippewa, the religions - pagan vs. Christian, the reservation vs. the city and within that what it means to be an Indian. One theme I've found in many of her books is that of the reservation Indian vs. the urban Indian and the dichotomy involved.

I always find it amazing how differently I read a book as I get older. Not only do I notice things I hadn't noticed before when I re-read, but at different ages, I process things differently. My take on the book changes each time.

Do you re-read books? Which are your favorite to re-read?

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Does Lack Of Sleep Affect You?

We all suffer from lack of sleep from time to time.

Some of us more than others.

I have always had issues sleeping. I either cannot fall asleep to begin with and/or I wake up a multitude of times in the night.

The more stress I feel, the more that is on my mind, the more frequent and severe the sleeping problems.

Other times, it's self-induced. For example, if I am reading a book that has completely enthralled me. It doesn't happen with every book, thankfully, but it does happen often enough that I tend to take reading in spurts.

I will read 3-5 books in a month and then nothing for a few months. I am currently on book 3 for this month. We shall see how many I fit in before I crash.

Another self-induced cause of sleep problems is caffeine.

It never used to bother me, but when it started to bother me, it took a few years to realize that it was the cause.

Now, I limit my caffeine to the morning and early afternoon. I drink decaf after 3 pm.

Unless I get Starbucks. The only thing I drink from Starbucks is the Mocha Frappuccino. When I have them, I HAVE to take a sleeping pill or I am up until 2 am or later.

Once in a while I forget to take the sleeping pill and I suffer. Or I go out and can't take a sleeping pill. If I take the sleeping pill after 9 or 9:30, I am a zombie the next day.

The other night, I had Starbucks and then I went out. I didn't stay out that late, but it was far too late to take a sleeping pill. I was awake until 2:30 and woke up 2 or 3 times that night.

Before I even fell asleep, I could feel the repercussions.

The first thing that happens to me when I don't get enough sleep is severe pain in my legs. If I didn't know better, I would think I had a blood clot that was traveling through my legs. It's excruciating. Then my lumbar spine aches. As the day progresses, I get a headache. Fortunately not a migraine, which I am prone to, but the kind that makes it hard to focus. I also have terrible balance and become extra clumsy (another thing I am prone to anyway).

I know some people never experience anything but lethargy with lack of sleep. How about you? Do you have any physical symptoms like I do?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Would You Be Seen WITHOUT Make-up?

My blogger friend, Alicia, aka Fashiona, over at Fashiona's Musings did a piece on the April issue of the French Elle showing women without make-up.

Now the cover model is, well, a model and actress, so she's SUPPOSED to be gorgeous.

I am sure even the most gorgeous of women have moments of self-consciousness and I am sure they want to look their best too.

But what about the average woman? You and I are judged differently than a model is judged. We judge ourselves against the models, though.

We hold ourselves to that impossible standard of beauty that is really the minority in the world. We all are beautiful in our own way, but we rarely see it in ourselves.

Add to that the natural vanity that women possess and there are millions who would never go out in public without make-up. They would rather die than have a photo taken of them with a naked face, forget about it being published for the world to see and critique.

My mom is one of these women. She has always been pretty, though she never sees it. Yet she openly admits she is very vain. The only time my mom is without make-up is when she is sleeping or having surgery (she's had a few). She wouldn't even run the garbage out when we were kids unless she had a full face on.

I, on the other hand, go out in public all the time without make-up. I think it has something to do with having gone to an all girls high school. Who were we impressing? No one, so we didn't care much how we looked.

And it's not that I don't care, it just that I really do not like the way make-up feels usually. I wear it when I go out at night or generally to a work setting, but daily just running around, I don't even think about it.

Except for lipstick. I've always had to have my lipstick on, I feel naked without it.

I do have photos of myself without make-up but I certainly would not want to share them beyond my family and close friends.

I think these women who have posed for the photos without make-up are very brave. The photos are supposed to be free of retouching as well, which is what makes it more impressive. (check it out)

For me, it goes to the same feeling of pride as the Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty showing real women in the buff. It's about time we show the world, but especially the young girls and women, just how misleading the media is.

Jenny McCarthy was on Ellen the other day and she pointed out that the cover shot of her on Shape has been airbrushed. Well Hallelujah! If someone like Jenny McCarthy is airbrushed to look that good, there is hope for the rest of us!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Midnight Sun

That title makes me think of Led Zeppelin, however, it has nothing to do with them or their music.
You, by now, know of my fascination with the Twilight books. As I did my post about the movie, I had gone to Stephenie Meyer's website for the film poster images and I noticed the link for Midnight Sun.
My friend had told me that Meyer had written Twilight from Edward Cullen's perspective a while ago, but I had forgotten about it. I clicked on the link to Midnight Sun and I started to read.
In case you are unaware, Twilight is a love story. Between a vampire and a human. The story follows the whole star-crossed lovers idea of Romeo and Juliet while adding a forbidden and dangerous love aspect.
A huge part of Bella Swan's character is the self-defamation and the belief that she is not pretty enough or good enough for Edward Cullen. She is ordinary while he has the beauty, speed, strength, grace and allure of a vampire. She doesn't think she can hold a candle to another vampire, why would he love her?
While reading Midnight Sun, I'm surprised to learn that Edward felt the same way. Unworthy of her love. He doesn't feel he is good enough for her. He's a monster and she is purely good, why would she love him?
Stephenie Meyer only made it about half way through the Twilight story from Edward's perspective. Apparently someone leaked her draft so, she posted as far as she got with the draft and stopped. She was too upset to continue.
I really hope she gets back to it. I really enjoyed reading Midnight Sun (typos of a draft and all) as much if not more than Twilight. It is rare to get to hear a book from another character's voice, but with this story, it is really insightful to hear what Edward was thinking during all of those tense moments we get on Bella's side.
There are a lot of fun extras on Stephenie Meyer's website. If you are a fan of the books and haven't checked out her website, you will feel like a kid in a candy store as I do!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Make-Up & A Fundraiser

We all know someone who has been touched by breast cancer.

Many of you know of my own scare last fall (read about it here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

My cousin is hosting a fundraiser for The Breast Cancer Network of Strength on behalf of her best friend who was diagnosed in October as I was going through my own biopsy.

Her friend had a double mastectomy and is undergoing chemo which she will continue to undergo through the summer. I can't help, especially since it was at the same time, but think that I could be in the same situation fighting for my life.

The Breast Cancer Network of Strength is an organization that offers outreach programs, breast health awareness workshops, wigs and prostheses for women with limited resources, and advocacy on policies related to breast cancer. This organization will ensure that no one faces breast cancer alone.

Her friend is taking part in the walk on Mother's Day, May 10th, here in Chicago and my cousin (who lives in North Carolina) is helping her raise money. She is doing this by donating half of her profits from sales through her Mary Kay website from now until Friday at noon.

If you would like to help raise money for breast cancer and also get yourself some make-up, please go here or click on the Mary Kay image. If you would like to donate to this person's efforts without buying something from Mary Kay, go here or click on the image at the top of the post.

EDIT: The fundraiser has been extended through the weekend. Thanks!

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