Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living with Lyme

My friend NeeCee shared this article with me today:

Those are just two examples of people who have been dealing with lyme disease. I've been somewhat vague on how it's affecting me because, for the most part, everybody's story is different and I don't feel like my story is any more special than anyone else's. I also don't want pity. Well-wishes are one thing, but I have no desire to live my life with messages of "Oh, I'm so sorry about (*whispers*) your disease." I've never wanted attention for being sick.

My family is no stranger to chronic illness or terminal disease. My sister has heart issues and type II diabetes. My mother had colon cancer and it took her life. My aunt fought and beat breast cancer. My brother has severe asthma and allergies that dictate his days. My dad had a total of six heart attacks before cancer finally took him at the age of 65. We aren't unfamiliar with sickness. But somehow, this disease caught me off guard. 

With our family history, I suspected at some point I'd get cancer. Or that I'd have to deal with insulin doses. I'd mentally prepared myself for those possibilities/probabilities. But nobody prepared me for Lyme disease. Hell, I didn't even know what the signs were until others pointed it out to me and suggested I get tested. It was the farthest thing from my mind when I started developing symptoms. But there it was on paper: lyme disease; not acute.

It took me by surprise, but at the same time, with all the research I'd done while waiting for my test results, I think I would've been more surprised if it hadn't come back positive. I had almost every sign. The only one I didn't remember having was that bulls-eye rash. Everything else was there, and while it may sound odd, I was hoping it would come back positive. Not because I wanted to have it, of course - who the hell would want to be this sick? - but because it would finally give a name to all the shit I'd been dealing with the last several years. 

Like most people with multiple nondescript symptoms, I just wanted an explanation. I was so sick of giving excuses that seemed like bullshit even to myself and I was the one who knew what I was going through. I blamed my brain fog on the anesthesia from my hysterectomy in 2012. My pain was, of course, from sleeping wrong and not seeing my chiropractor as often as he'd suggested. The Bells' Palsy and skin rashes were an allergic reaction to something, I'd said. My deepening depression, growing anxiety and increasingly common mood swings had to be because of stress. Sleeplessness, exhaustion and weird sleep patterns could be blamed on my anxiety and depression. I mean, literally everything could be explained away by something else. But there was only one single thing that would encompass them all and it would finally have a name.

Until my diagnosis, I sucked it up and dealt with life as it came at me. After all, if it didn't have a name, how could I not just deal with shit? I had no excuse, no reason, no explanation. Hell, if I'd known I had lyme disease two years ago, I could've saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy where I tried to figure out why I felt so fucked up all the time. I still tend to think I'm stronger than I am, more motivated than I feel, more capable than not, and as a result, I get pissed at myself because I end up overdoing things.

Anger is a very real part of this whole thing. I don't, however, know if it's a symptom of the disease or a side effect of the diagnosis. I spent a month on oral antibiotics which made me extremely sick a time or two. Then I spent a month on IV medication through a PICC line that totally hosed my birthday month all to hell. Anger at my circumstances was a natural reaction to what I was going through, I'm told, but I still feel guilty about it. I've never been real tolerant of bullshit, but since being diagnosed, I've noticed it has only gotten worse. I hope now that I'm done with medication and I'm on the way through my post-treatment phase that it will lessen. I try to take each day as it comes, but I notice that I have to force myself to have good days sometimes. It doesn't come as easily as it once did. That pisses me off, too. Sometimes it feels like a neverending cycle in that respect. 

Mostly, I just miss who I used to be. I was fun-loving, carefree, spontaneous and happy. Now, I have to remind myself to be some of those things, and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never be some of them, too. Spontaneity is rarer for me because I have to stock-pile my energy. Happy is a choice, I'm learning, but I do try to find happy in every day - whether it be something grand or something minute. I still love having fun, but carefree is something I'll never be again.

That part sucks.

This will always be on my mind. Even if I get to the point of being symptom-free, it will always be in the back of my mind like a stranger lurking in a dark alley. My health was something I used to take for granted, but the bottom line is that I will always be sick. There's no remission from chronic lyme disease, no survival rates, no pink ribbon campaigns and universal sisterhoods like there are with cancer. Thousands of people have it, but nobody talks about it. That's hard. Most days I feel very alone in this. Those are the days when I stay in bed and lose myself in a book or Netflix binge. Other days, I pretend I don't hurt just so I can feel normal...even if it's bullshit. 

Why?

Because I know what people think. Hell, if half the medical community doesn't recognize chronic lyme disease as a real thing, what hope do I have with friends and family who don't have the answers? People who don't know anything about Lyme don't understand that I hurt almost all the time. Or that going to the grocery store or making dinner for my family can put me in bed for a day and a half. Or that traveling can take me out for a week straight. They don't understand that extra stimulation such as a crying baby or a fight between family members makes me want to beat my head against a wall. They think me being asleep at 3 in the afternoon is laziness, or that being awake at 3am is insomnia. They don't understand how painful it is for me to sit at a ball game without moving for two hours. And that even just listening to them vent about work or their kids makes me want to cry because the burden is too great for me to carry. 

I feel like I should be spending my day apologizing to people around me because I'm sick. They have to hear me scream when I'm angry and cry when I get frustrated. They pick up the slack when I don't have the energy to both make dinner and clean up afterward. They work hard because I can't. Most days I feel like a complete burden. I'm working through that guilt, but it's not gone yet. Mostly, though, I just miss me.

I have hope that even if my physical abilities don't return to what they were that my mental capacities do. I'm smart. I'm funny. I'm ridiculously talented with words. But I'm also forgetful, crabby and tired a lot. I'm optimistic and I try and keep my hopes up, but at the same time, I have to be realistic because I don't want to set up false expectations for myself. I'm still working on the balance there.

But in the meantime, I'm just taking things day by day, breath by breath.

That's the Lyme life.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

So what's the deal with these strippers?



"What's the deal with these strippers?"

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been asked that question over the last several months regarding Men of the Strip. I've been called a groupie, which I'm not. I've been asked "which one are you with?" The answer is none. I've been asked if I work for them and travel with them (nope and nope). And I can't even imagine the rumors going around. I just laugh at those. The bottom line is, these guys are my family.

In November 2013, when I saw them for the first time, I knew I would be making the Men of the Strip a part of my life. Not because they're ridiculously handsome (they are!) or because I want to sleep with them (they're almost young enough to be my sons!). I made them a part of my life because I believe in them. I believe in their brand. I believe in what they're doing. I believe in their talents, their charisma, their dreams and their ambition. I believe in every single one of these guys as individuals, and the guys who brought them together, too. I've never seen a better group of men with one collective vision. 

When I witness someone living out their passion, fulfilling their dreams and reaching their goals, it gives me inspiration to follow my own journey. I see how hard they work at what they do, how much they push themselves to get where they want to go, and how committed they are to the project. They give me something to aspire to and I am so grateful for that.

I love these guys with all my heart and I will always stand by them and behind them proudly. I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry, and, let's face it, I scream when they get naked. I kid, I kid (No, I don't). Seriously though, I feel like a part of the team at this point (albeit waaaaay in the background) and I'm honored to be considered as such. They respect my advice, they're grateful for my help and support, and they return the love that's given.

For those who don't know me, when I am passionate about something, I'm passionate to the core. I'm not a groupie, I'm not a girlfriend, I'm not a plaything - I'm a fan, I'm a believer, but most importantly, I'm a friend and one of the luckiest people on earth to because of it. Thank you, Mike, Juan, Jeff, Glenn, Kyle, Chris, Keith, Joel, Brad, Chaun, Garo, Charles, Derek, and of course, Nate for welcoming me into your crazy world and allowing me be even the most remote part of this amazing team. 

My love, respect, appreciation, and gratitude to you all.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forty Acts of Kindness


Meet Baby Mel. 

In twelve days, this baby turns forty. FORTY! In those forty years I've accomplished a lot of amazing things. I've loved. I've lost. I've survived. I've triumphed. All in all, those forty years have been incredibly generous to me. My world is filled with friends, family and loved ones who've made my life richer.

When I turned thirty-nine last year, I told my friends and family, "Forty is a big deal and I want a big deal made out of it. I want a party. I want cake. I want to have the time of my life." I've reminded them numerous times in this last year and last month, I found out that my bestie and my hubby worked together to send me to Las Vegas around my birthday to see New Kids on the Block. I. Am. THRILLED!  I can't wait to leave and I really hope the Lyme is willing to take a three day break so I can thoroughly enjoy my vacation.

That being said, I still want my fortieth birthday to be something special - not just for me, though. With this illness has come a lot of self-reflection. Some of it has been hard to swallow, but mostly, it's been a good thing. I've realized that as far as an impact on the world goes, I haven't made much of one. I'm not saying I haven't impacted people's lives; I've been told I have and I believe that. But I want to go bigger. Be bigger. DO bigger.

That's where you come in.

Between now and July 6th, I am asking everyone who reads this to do ONE random act of kindness and then tell me what it was. Just one. It can be simple, it can be complicated. It can be expensive or it can be priceless. Just pick one thing that you can do for someone else who hasn't asked you to. There are too many examples to list here, but some that come to mind are buying someone's lunch at a restaurant, adopting a shelter animal, plugging a quarter in someone's parking meter, sending a card to someone whose life could use some brightening, offering a stranger a hug. If you need ideas, go here, or here, or even here. The ideas are truly endless. 

Like I said, though, I want to know what you've done. If you want to tell me anonymously, that's fine. But I'd like to update this blog in a couple weeks and fill it with the things that people have done to help make the world a better place. I tend to be a bit cynical at times and I know others can be too, so I want to inspire them...to convince them that the world isn't as bad as we think it is.

Will you help?

You can let me know in numerous ways what fun and selfless thing you've done:
Twitter: @OUBad
Email: mel.henry at gmail dot com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MelHenryAuthor
Or by commenting here in this blog

I, too, will be doing acts of kindness. Forty of them, as a matter of fact. I can't wait!

I'm looking forward to seeing the creative ways we all come up with for giving back!!

P.S. Can I still get the cake, too?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blocking game requests on Facebook

I'm fifty shades of fed up with people complaining about receiving game invitations. Of course, they're also fifty shades of fed up with getting game invitations, so I suppose we're equal. A friend of mine asked me to explain how to block game requests so he doesn't get them anymore.

Now, please keep in mind that many games (especially those that are played on mobile devices) don't always give us accurate options. Some games will tell us that people are playing the game when in fact they're not, so when it gives us the option to send lives to someone, if we don't know for sure that you don't play a game, we may accidentally send you a request. Please don't yell at us. Just do the steps below and block the game. Not all invitations are intentional. 

When you log into your Facebook account on your computer (blocking requests on mobile devices isn't possible that I'm aware of), your notifications that someone has sent you a request will be shown on the upper right corner (assuming Facebook doesn't change things again). Don't click on those notifications regarding games if you want to block. Instead, go to your left side menu, as shown below:

(Click on any photograph to make it bigger.)

Notice just under the Apps menu, there's a Games link. Click on that. (Not the "Games Feed" link at the bottom of that list.) That will bring up the following options:


Notice toward the bottom left there's a link for "Requests" with a number next to it. Click on it. That will bring up this page:


Let's say that Trivia Crack is the game I don't want to receive requests from. If you click the X next to the "Play Now" button, it will bring up the next page:


This is normally where most people stop clicking and they hit their home page link, not realizing that they can block all invitations both from the game AND the person sending them. Typically, I don't block all requests from the person, because they may play one of the games I want to get invitations from, but for some reason if you're still getting requests from games you've blocked, it might help to block the person. Let's just say for now you only want to block the game.  Notice in the cream colored box where you just had the request, it says, "You hid a Trivia Crack request from ______." Then a link that says "Block Trivia Crack?" is right beneath it. Click that link. (If you chose to block all requests from a person, then click the link under that option.) This will bring up this pop-up option:

Click "Confirm" to block the game. (I believe the pop-up is similar if you choose to block all requests from a person.)


Congratulations! You've figured out how not to lose your shit when somebody sends you requests.

Hope this helps!

Friday, June 6, 2014

An update on me, "Better in Time," and the general outlook from here

Hey all!
I wanted to take a few minutes and fill you all in with what's going on with me. 

As many of you may know, my health has been giving me a lot of problems over the last several months. After a stint in the hospital and more tests than I can even keep track of, it has been determined that I have chronic Lyme disease. While I am on antibiotics and am taking numerous supplements to boost my immunity, I still battle daily with the symptoms. For me, that means extreme and overwhelming exhaustion, brain fog, and a lot of joint pain. I can sleep 8-12 hours at night, be up for a couple hours and be tired again. Add in household chores, errands, doctor appointments or other events and I'm wiped out for days. While this doesn't affect most of you directly, it does affect my ability to do my job as an author.

I have been working on the next book in my Time After Time series, Better in Time but due to the pain and exhaustion, it's been in very small stints at a time. I have the story in my head mostly worked out, but putting it down on paper is difficult right now. I hope as the antibiotics and supplements do their job, these symptoms will minimize and I can get back to doing what I need (and want!) to be doing. 

Because of these delays, I don't know when the second book will be finished and I'm reluctant to give a publish date. Please just know that I haven't forgotten about you, Josh, or Carly. I promise their stories will continue as soon as I am able. I ask for your patience and understanding, and hopefully I will be back to my old self before we know it.

Thanks,
Mel

Friday, May 30, 2014

I'm fine.


When are we going to stop lying?

We aren't fine.

We're stressed, we're grieving, we're hurting, we're tired, we're overwhelmed, we're angry, we're sick, we're disappointed, we're betrayed, we're sad, we're irritated, we're lonely, we're fed-up, we're worn out, but very, very rarely are we ever fine. So let's stop with the bullshit, okay?

Who says we have to pretend to be okay when we're not? Because our mothers did? Because someone tells us we should be? Because we believe these stupid memes we find on Tumblr and Pinterest?

STOP!

Seriously, knock it off.

First of all, nobody believes us when we say it but most people are too caught up in their own lives to question you on it. People want us to be fine because it relieves them of responsibilities to listen or try and make things better. If they're the ones to blame for our not-fine emotions, it means they have to make amends for why we aren't fine. And none of us really want to be the reason that other people have to go out of their way to do something, right?

Secondly, this pretending? This mask-wearing? It's exhausting and it's killing us all slowly. No joke. Heart disease is the leading killer of all women in the United States. What leads to heart disease? Stress. The martyr-ish "I'm fine" crap leads to stress because we aren't talking about the fact that we are sooooooo NOT fine. We bury our feelings because we believe, as women, that we have to just suck it up because we're supposed to be able to carry the burdens of our families, our husbands, our kids, our careers, our homes, our friends and everyone else that comes along. We're super human! At least that's what we think.

The truth, though, is that we aren't super human. We're just human. And that's okay. It's okay to fall apart sometimes. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to say "I'm having a bad day." It's okay to text your best friend and say "I need you." It's okay to tell someone no, if you don't feel like doing something.

Sure, there are times when we have to deal with the consequences we're handed, but that doesn't mean we have to do it with a smile or act like we're not bothered by it. It doesn't mean we can't take some time for ourselves afterward to just breathe.

Maybe, if we all work together and learn how to tell the truth about how we really feel, we can stop lying to everybody...and ourselves. Because honey? I'm not fine and neither are you.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lyme life

Know what I knew about Lyme disease before last week?

That you get it from ticks.
I didn't know how easy it was to contract, how tough it is to get rid of it, how much of your life it can affect, or how bad you feel once you have it. I also didn't know that the treatment is almost worse than the disease. I realized that part tonight as I became exhausted from chewing my dinner.

CHEWING. MY. DINNER.

It was a fluke that I asked to be tested for lyme disease. A friend's mother has had it for thirty years and she recognized that I had many similar symptoms as her mom: insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, joint pain, headaches, dizziness, short-term memory loss, brain fog, numbness in the hands and feet, sore neck and shoulder muscles. I brushed it off when she suggested I get tested because I hardly ever go outside except to get in the car, I don't go for walks in the woods, I don't camp or bike. I'm not a gardener or an outdoorsy person. Then, as I was reading another friend's Twitter post about her Lyme test coming back positive, I brushed something off my shoulder that had been tickling me. I looked down and discovered a tick. In my house. On my couch. I've always hated ticks and I thought I was pretty good about checking for them, but apparently I'd missed one. Clearly, I missed two because this tick hadn't had time to bite me. Most likely, our dog brought it in on him. Regardless of how it got inside my house, I had to deal with the possible aftermath.

I immediately called my doctor to request a lyme test. In the meantime, I looked up symptoms of lyme disease and discovered that in some cases, Bell's Palsy, which I'd had three bouts of in 2008. Needless to say, if there was an explanation for all the symptoms I'd had, it would be a God-send, no matter what the diagnosis. When the tests came back, a few days after my doctor appointment, they confirmed what I already suspected: I have lyme disease. Immediate tests said I had an acute case, but the results are back from further testing and they've confirmed that I have had it for a while.

Bottom line, if I can get Lyme disease, anybody can.

Please, friends, be diligent about protecting yourself, your family and your pets. Insect repellent for you and the kids, collars and repellents for your animals (check with your vet) and preventive landscaping and pesticide treatments for your yard. Always check everybody for ticks when they come in from the outdoors. Check bodies, clothes, backpacks, camping gear, shoes, and especially hair. I can't do anything about my diagnosis, but if I can prevent someone else from getting it, I'll be a happy woman. I wouldn't wish this misery on anyone.

To learn more about lyme disease, how to handle ticks and tick bites, and what to do to limit the possibility of exposure, visit the CDC website.

(FYI, for those wondering, I'm taking doxycycline, and ganoderma lucidum capsules. The doxy is an antibiotic that will help kill off the borrelia bacteria and the ganoderma is an herbal supplement that will help boost my immune system so my body can fight it off naturally.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Caveat Emptor - Ticket version

Yesterday, I got a DM from my friend Kimmi who told me she was getting ready to buy Adam Lambert tickets and needed some advice on getting good seats. Apparently she thinks I know something or something. ;) I gave her the advice, she got the tickets and promptly told me I need to write a book on ticket buying. Personally, I don't think there's enough for a book, but she was convincing, so I decided a blog was in order.

I am no amateur when it comes to ticket buying. I'm not saying I'm an expert by any means, but I do have solid experience when it comes to snatching up good tickets. As someone who suffers from various forms of anxiety, this experience is an anxiety all its own, especially if getting killer seats are of vital importance to you. Just putting that out there. By the way, good seats are always of vital importance to me. I'm a ticket snob. I mean, I would rather not go than to get crappy seats. Yes, it's a sickness. Someday, I may seek help. Until then, I'm happy with my obsession - especially if it can help other people.

Now, I will put this disclaimer out there and get it out of the way: my blog does not guarantee you good seats. As I told Kimmi, 50% of getting good tickets boils down to sheer luck combined with unwavering dedication. If you take my suggestions and you still get crappy seats, don't blame me: I'm not Ticket Master, k? Also, if you don't care where you seats are as long as you're in the building, this blog isn't for you. It's to help die-hard music lovers who want to get within spitting distance of the stage(s).

1. Study your artist and find out the layout of the arena (staging, seating, etc) as early as possible. Sometimes this can be done via social media (Twitter is fantastic for it because you can connect with other fans who can give great advice), your artist's website or Ticketmaster itself. The better idea you have of how the arena will be laid out, the easier it will be for you to determine where you want to sit.

2. Connect with other fans, join social media groups and forums, peruse YouTube to see how your artist performs (if you don't already know). Some artists stick to one main stage, others have a "B" stage. Some even climb up on little platforms throughout the arena. That being said, I have never seen an artist go up to the top level seating, including the "VIP" boxes that typically go for more money. 

3. Be willing to go to more than one concert, if possible. Many artists will have several shows in nearby cities that are a simple road-trip away. Some of you are probably looking at me like "This chick is a total groupie. Different cities? Good lord!" But, if you've ever had seats in the nosebleed section and you're afraid of heights, you'll be much more willing to drive a couple hundred miles if it means not having a panic attack. The purpose of going to at least one additional show is to learn the arena layout and find out where your artist goes and what the views are from those areas. Obviously, the benefit of going to more than one show is getting to see your artist again and who doesn't love that?

4. My experience with pre-sale is mediocre, at best. I've done it once and honestly, I didn't get any better seats than I did if I'd have waited until regular sale. The best seats aren't the only ones offered during pre-sale or fan club sales. Some of them are, but not all. And neither are the best seats only offered to VIP ticket buyers. It may seem that way, but I promise you, they're not. Some artists may prove me wrong, but for the majority of the artists today, you can get front row without taking out a loan from your 401k. If you have the opportunity for pre-sale, by all means, check it out. If you find the exact seats you want, snatch them up. Same goes with VIP, if you want all the goodies that come along with VIP. But with pre-sale, hitting refresh too many times can be dangerous as they usually fill from the front to the back, pushing you further back in the arena. And with VIP, most of the time, the VIP handlers choose your seats for you based on whichever package you buy. More on VIP later.

5. Speaking of which, Kimmi asked me "Where are the best seats?" Honestly, it depends on the artists, but in my opinion, third row is PRIME seating. If you can get front row, obviously, that's awesome, but I've found that you can still get a LOT of great interaction with your artist from third row. Same goes for B-stage seating. Or aisle seating on the way to the platforms your artist may have staged around the arena. The first level balcony next to the stage is also a great area to be, especially those first couple rows. You probably won't get the right angle to see the screens they have hanging next to the stage, but you've got a better chance of being closer to the artist themselves. Again, I highly suggest veering away from top level balcony seats.

6. Make sure to register your personal information with your ticket-buying site before the date of sale. It will save you time later on. This being said, part of me wonders if the sites don't register cookies with your computer that says you've been there before and thereby offers you worse seats than before. It may sound skeptical, but I know airlines do this when you are searching for airfare rates. So it's up to you to gauge which is the truer case.

7. On ticket-buying day, if it's an artist that is likely to sell out (Bieber, One Direction, etc.), buy whatever tickets become available on your first click. If you take the time to click again, not only will you be tossed up to the third balcony (if you're not already), you could risk on a total sell-out. On high-demand artists like this, the entire arena can literally sell out in just a couple of minutes. No, I'm not kidding. One Direction sold out in three minutes. I can't even microwave a burrito in three minutes. If you want better seats, you can always try to find them later, but if you just have-to-or-I'll-just-die get tickets to the show, buy on the first click. Trust me on this.

8.  Buying later is always the option I go for if it's not one of those go-or-die scenarios. Usually about 2-4 weeks before the show, the artists, radio stations, promotional groups and arena have claimed their promo tickets and whichever ones haven't been used are thrown back into the mix and these seats are released to the public. They may say they've "added seats" as if they suddenly found forty feet of room and added more chairs, but this is essentially what is happening. This time frame is the best time to find those VIP seats for regular prices. In 2009, I was able to snatch up 3 third-row seats for a show that had been giving me row H, L and M up til that point. This is where Refresh Hell comes in.

9. Refresh Hell is the term I've given that buying process (either on Ticket Release Day or later on, closer to the show) that causes the most anxiety for me. This is where you keep hitting refresh on your browser to see if better seats become available. Sometimes, I'll even have a couple of different browsers going to hold the seats I have so I can see what comes up if those are taken. If you can't multi-task, it might not be a bad idea to enlist a friend to help you with this. And don't be too impatient with this process. To get those third row seats, I spent about thirty minutes hitting refresh before I finally landed on row A instead of row H.

10. It should also be noted that while I don't typically use sites like Stub Hub or any other second-party ticket sellers, they have been found to be profitable for ticket buyers who want good seats. The benefit is you can get super close to the stage. The downfall is you'll pay up to 500% more for tickets bought on these sites. If that doesn't bother you, knock yourself out. Obviously, in this age of electronic tickets, it's important that you remember not everyone is honest and counterfeit tickets are sold every single day, all day long, so BE CAREFUL to buy from reputable sites with guarantees, not from newspaper ads or Craigslist. Even physical tickets you buy from someone may have been printed out a dozen times and sold to a dozen different people.

The only other tip I can recommend is to become familiar with band, staffs and security for your artist. Every artist wants to know their music is touching lives. The more familiar you are with the artist and the people surrounding them, the more they will want to express their appreciation. This does not mean that I'm telling you to create fake relationships with these people. Their time is valuable and they don't have time for groupies expecting hand-outs or back-stage passes. I'm simply saying, if you're passionate or proud of your artist, this is an excellent way to show it. Don't be annoying. Don't ask for anything. Don't offer sexual favors (yes, it happens). Don't be stalker-ish. Don't be bat shit crazy. 

I'm sure I've forgotten things, so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and I'd be happy to answer it for you. Good luck!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's all in your head

Can someone tell me the difference between this woman:



and this woman?

 


I'll give you a hint: it's not something you can see.

Yes, I've lost weight in the bottom picture. I'm also wearing a bit more make-up. But those aren't the difference either.

Give up?

The woman in the bottom picture feels sexy. The dress obviously helps, so do the killer high heels she's got on (that you can't see), but it's more than just that. It's all about how those things made me feel. When I bought the dress, I gave myself a 50% chance of actually fitting into it, much less wearing it in public. But the more I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized the dress really was amazing. And I felt amazing in it.

I want to lose some more weight and I'd love it if I had longer legs and perkier breasts, but even I was a perfect size 6 with a 35" inseam and 22 year old breasts, if I don't feel sexy, then I'm still no more so than I am now. It's all in my head - always has been. So instead of dogging on myself and having a melt down in every dressing room I go into because I'm not a supermodel, I'm going to embrace my curves and know that how attractive I feel is a choice.

And I choose sexy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

16 and Living the Dream

Last week, my 16-year-old and I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to New York City. I've taken numerous trips to NY without her, but this was the first time we ventured together and it was incredible.


To see her light up in Times Square as she took in the sights, the look on her face when she got to meet Jenny McCarthy for the first time, the way she gazed in awe at the Empire State Building the first time she saw it...nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to that.



My mother and I took family vacations when I was younger, but mostly to amusement parks or fishing resorts, no place as cool as New York City and certainly never with just her and me. So to be able to share this experience with my daughter was the greatest thing ever. I was worried that because we weren't able to do as much as we wanted to because of the cold weather and pending Super Bowl craziness that she wouldn't enjoy the trip, but she assured me it was a 57 of a scale of 1-10. Regardless, just spending time together in the most amazing city I've ever been to was priceless. 



As far as sightseeing went, we got to see Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park (driving-through), the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, and Macy's in Herald Square. The extras we got to enjoy included seeing the View (and meeting several celebrities) and spending about four hours on the Blue Bloods set with Donnie Wahlberg. We got to have lunch with Sherri Shepherd after the View and kiddo was tickled about Sherri asking her all kinds of "interview"-type questions about what she planned on doing after high school. We did some shopping, a lot of eating and took tons of pictures, too. We also managed to get turned around on the subway once and ended up DEEEEEEEEEP in Brooklyn at midnight (not something I recommend, by the way), but it was an experience we won't soon forget.


The trip didn't start out smoothly, which made it that much more special, I think. The original plans included taking the Megabus to Chicago and flying out of O'Hare into NYC. The reverse was also the plans for coming home. Unfortunately, a blizzard derailed our plans. Megabus cancelled all bus trips to Chicago, so that meant Hubby having to drive us to Chicago. We stayed with friends and then he took us to the airport the next morning before he returned home. Thankfully, the plans home worked out. We came back into Chicago and stayed with my friend Cathy who spoiled us rotten. The whole trip, actually was thanks to some great generosity on behalf of our friends. Buddy pass airline tickets, open houses to stay at, etc. We were very fortunate that the trip worked out the way it did. 

Sis decided that this needs to be a tradition we pass down through generations. Since I took her to NYC, she plans on taking her daughter someday. I can only hope I'm still spry enough to join them. I look forward to the next trip I get to take with her, but also when I get to take Big Man on a trip, too. 



Saturday, January 18, 2014

I'll always be...

On the inside of my right wrist, I have the word "trust" tattooed. On the other one, I have "breathe." I did this a couple years ago to remind myself to do the two things I have the most difficulty doing. 

It's rare that I am able to just take a deep breath and let things go. I think about them, roll them over in my head repeatedly, lose sleep over them and overanalyze everything to death. Also, I've realized that I don't breathe deeply. Like, at all. I have never measured, but I'm sure I only use about half the capacity of my lungs on any given day. I breathe very shallowly because my body is always tense. Always. Shoulders, arms, neck, chest. When my body is tense, I'm not able to breathe in like I should. You know when you're watching a scary or suspenseful movie and you take that sharp breath in and hold it? That's what I do all the time. I'm always on edge - waiting for the worst to happen. It's rare that it actually does, but that doesn't mean I'm not constantly anticipating it. It's made for a most stressful existence.

Trust, on the other hand, is the paradox. I don't have any problem trusting other people. Sometimes, I'd like to think I don't trust easily, but the problem is that I do. I believe what people tell me because I'm authentic and genuine. I don't approach life with dishonesty or manipulation, so I fool myself into thinking that others are just as honest and forthright as I am. Sadly, as time goes on, I'm finding out, they're not. Many people have agendas. I won't say all people because I'm not that cynical, but there are a lot of people out there who are only looking out for themselves. The worst part about this is that I'm more likely to trust someone who is manipulating me than I trust myself. I question my own instincts and judgment ALL the time - what to have for dinner, what I should wear, how I should wear my hair. I'm always asking for people's input on things that I shouldn't have any problem choosing for myself. I mean, I'm a smart woman. More intelligent, actually, than most people realize. But I don't trust myself to make the right choices - not when it comes to simple stuff and most definitely not when it comes to big things.

I'm learning that I need to start breathing deeper and trusting myself. I'll probably always have to be reminded to take a deep breath; I don't know how to do anything else. But I'm going to make a conscious effort to be better about it. I can't go through life always expecting the worst to happen, especially when my life is as good as it is.

I'm a firm believer that people are brought into our lives as blessings or lessons. And I'll always be the person who believes everyone is a blessing until I'm shown otherwise and I'm okay with that. I'd much rather feel like a fool for believing the best about people than having walls that prevent me from getting close to anyone.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

As promised, an excerpt from "Better in Time"

Better in Time is the second book in the Time After Time series and the sequel to my debut novel, Distance and Time. This excerpt contains no spoilers for either book, so feel free to read without running the risk of ruining anything. 

I know what you're wondering, "When will it be published?!" And sadly, the only timeframe I can give you is "before the end of summer." As I've stated before when posting online fiction, I would much rather deliver a stellar story after a long absence than give my readers a half-assed book. As always, I will keep you posted so you don't miss the release and I appreciate your enthusiasm and your patience.

If you haven't already purchased Distance and Time, you can go to Amazon buy it here.

Now -- go enjoy the first part of Josh's side of the story:

_______________________________________________________________________

Summer 1992
This place was like every other club I’d ever been to: loud, smoky and filled with girls wearing mini-skirts. Even though I’d just turned twenty-one a few months ago, I’d been a part of the club scene for years. It came with the territory of being in a boy band. 

I was lead singer for a group called South Station Boyz. My bandmates, Marc Reyes, Dave Butler and Bobby Callahan had chosen to go to other venues tonight. Marc opted for dinner and a movie with a couple of the girls from our wardrobe team and the other two chose some seedy strip club. I had no desire for that kind of attention, so I bowed out. I appreciated beautiful girls, don’t get me wrong, but stuffing singles in the oily G-string of some half-naked woman bathed in stinky perfume didn’t really appeal to me.

I sipped on a glass of Scotch as my eyes wandered the room. True to form, it was filled with short skirts, half-shirts and hair styled so big, it was like I’d gone to a singles bar for peacocks. 

“It’s a smorgasbord here tonight. Eh, Josh?” My friend, Mike nudged me and tipped his head toward the dance floor. He worked on our crew and convinced me to come out with him and a couple other guys in our entourage. I didn’t really feel like dealing with fans tonight; we’d had shows every night for the last five nights and this was my night off. But the only thing I hated worse than clubs was sitting alone in a hotel room. 

“Definitely a buffet of beauties,” I replied with utter boredom. 

Then my eyes landed on her.

She was with three other girls but she didn’t look like she fit in with them. Their smiles were big, as were their hair and high heels. Their skirts weren’t, of course. She, however, was wearing ripped jeans, some shimmery purple shirt and flats. They walked confidently through the crowd while she shuffled nervously, eyes not seeming to meet anyone else’s. I pulled my gaze away when Keith and Andre joined us and started telling us about some chicks they met up at the bar. I pretended to care but let my eyes wander again. 

I found the mystery girl again and watched as she and her friends settled in at a table across the dance floor. I sipped from my glass and nearly choked on my drink when her eyes met mine. I struggled to act casually as I tipped my head and smiled at her. She bit her lip, but the corners of her mouth curled up in smile before she quickly looked away.

For years, girls have thrown themselves at me. They’ve slipped their numbers into my pocket at fan meet-ups; they’ve snuck into my hotel room at two in the morning; they’ve sat outside my house for days on end during breaks from tour. I’ll admit, at first that kind of attention was flattering, but after all these years, it was getting old. I couldn’t take any of these girls seriously, much less date them. There was too much at stake. But this girl? I needed to get to know her. She seemed…different.

The guys retreated to our VIP room behind the DJ booth and I reluctantly followed them. Mike ordered another round of drinks, but since I was still nursing the Scotch I’d ordered almost an hour before, I passed. Only paying half-attention to their conversation, I stood at the glass and tried to watch my mystery girl, but she’d disappeared. Only two of her friends remained at the table. Anxiously, my eyes scanned the platform where their table was, then the bar and finally the dance floor, but I couldn’t find her. The knot in my gut urged me to leave the VIP booth and return to the spot I’d been standing before. I ignored the glances my friends gave me when I got up and left. I didn’t care what they thought.

Once I reached my perch above the dance floor, it only took a moment to spot her again. She was dancing with one of her friends and had her back toward me. She was thoroughly involved in the beat of the music and I was completely entranced by her. I couldn’t tear my eyes away or stop my feet from moving closer.

When I was finally behind her, I put my hands on her hips and began moving in rhythm with her, apparently giving her quite the shock. She spun around and stopped dancing. I flashed a smile and gently rocked her hips with my hands, reminding her of what she had been doing. When she began moving again, I slid my hand to the small of her back and pulled her closer to me as we began to move in sync. 

“Damn girl, you’ve got some killer moves,” I muttered to myself, seemingly louder than I’d intended because it warranted a response from her.

“Thanks, Josh.”

Shit. She was a fan. My radar had been wrong. Maybe this girl was like all the others. I faked a smile and mumbled something about the tabloids. Regardless, this girl was still beautiful and I couldn’t have been wrong about her innocent nature. That, at least, was a breath of fresh air in my world. Too many girls acted like sluts and would’ve climbed me like a spider monkey by now and this girl could barely touch me without pushing away again. Maybe she was different, after all. I had to find out for sure.

“Have a drink with me?”

I watched her bite her lip as she looked over at her friend, then followed the girl’s eyes up to the table. She was actually shy. How adorable! 

She nodded and I didn’t ask for a second confirmation before I wrapped her hand in mine and led her back to the VIP booth. By now, the guys knew to clear out when I brought anybody to join me, so they emptied out quickly. Not knowing how old she was, I ordered her the weakest fruity drink I could think of and myself another Scotch. 

When I asked her what her name was, she smirked and gave me some movie quote. Had I not been completely taken in by her eyes, I would’ve caught it, but I looked like an idiot when I didn’t respond right away. I wanted to kick myself. I was blowing it!

This girl was complex, that’s for sure. She came across confident. Her quick wit and responses to my questions made it seem like she talked to celebrities every day, but her body language said otherwise. She was clearly nervous. Her posture was rigid, she sat with her knees together and her back was straight as a board. She didn’t offer much conversation willingly and she kept nibbling her lips. Her perfect, plump, kissable lips. 

Jesus, slow down, McCarthy! I was getting ahead of myself. I didn’t even know her name or age yet. But part of me didn’t care. 

As the night progressed, we danced more, talked more and I spent the rest of the evening staring into her beautiful blue eyes. She finally relaxed a little and told me more about herself. I learned that she had turned eighteen just a few weeks earlier, was the baby of her family and that her name was Carly Cooper.

Carly. Her name flowed from my mouth with ease. It was a name I knew I wouldn’t soon forget. If I had my way, it was one I’d remember forever.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pro-crap-stination

I'd love to tell you that I'm an organized, on-the-ball person who has her shit together, but alas, that's not the case. Okay, so I am fairly organized, but only in certain areas of my life and most definitely not when it comes to work. And I'm a total procrastinator. Remind me to give you examples of all the ways I do that someday. 

(Ha! I'll be here all week! Try the veal and tip your waitresses!)

My goal was to publish Distance and Time in July for both e-readers AND in paperback. Yeeeeeah. That didn't happen. Then, I set the goal to have it done by September. October. Umm, November? Christmas? sigh Yeah, those didn't happen either.

I could give you a dozen reasons as to where I went astray, but it all boils down to the tenacity of making the changes and edits necessary to get the book printed. After having spent so much time with Josh and Carly during the writing and initial publishing process, I needed time away from them (and they from me!). I needed to deal with reality, for one, and concentrate on writing Better in Time, the second book in the series. Since Better in Time is Josh's story, that didn't really give me the break I needed. So, instead of sacrificing his story, I made the decision to put off the printing process for Distance and Time. It was an executive decision and, I believe, the right one.

I'm happy to tell you that I have finally made the final edits that should put paperback copies of Distance and Time in your hands very soon. Granted, it won't be tomorrow, but we're closer than we've been before. I know my graphic designer has a busy, hectic schedule, so it all depends on when her schedule clears a little, but overall, it shouldn't take nearly as long as it did me.

I believe apologies are important, but only if it means that you're going to make changes so what you're apologizing for doesn't happen again. So, in essence, I'd love to apologize for the length of time it's taking for the paperback copies to be printed, but in reality, I know this won't be the last time I procrastinate and therefore, my apology is pointless. I will ask you to bear with me, though. I think the stories and characters are worth overlooking my shortcomings in the promptness department. At least, I hope they are!

Stay tuned for updates and release dates for upcoming material, including this precious paperback that has taken me so long to get in print.

As always, I cherish you, my fans!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Mom Dated an Everly Brother

Okay, well, she didn't actually date an Everly Brother, but apparently she did hang out with them once. She was with her best friend and the two of them met Phil and Don after their concert and showed them the town.

It's been over 30 years since my mom told me that story, so I don't remember the details, I don't know if she got a kiss goodnight or even a picture with them, but I do remember thinking "my mom is the coolest chick on the planet!"

I mean, seriously! She dated a celebrity!

"I didn't date a celebrity, Melanie."

"Well, no, but you went out with one!"

"Not really, sweetheart."

"But you know one!"

My mom, who made the best lasagna on the planet, could do farm chores in less than twenty minutes, crocheted the most comfortable afghans ever, and gave the best snuggles ever? Famous! Because one night in the 50's when she was sharing a malt with a girlfriend at a diner, she had a conversation with one of the guys who sang a song I heard a few times on a record player.

Mom, of course wasn't famous, she didn't walk the red carpet, she didn't even remember which Everly brother was "hers" that night. But for a few minutes, in my six-year-old-mind, she was bigger than Elvis. And what mom doesn't want that?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tis the season to be ripped off!

It's that time of year, folks. Trim the tree, buy the presents and hide the Santa gifts in the attic. And pray your house doesn't get broken into. During the months of November and December, there are roughly 400,000 burglaries reported each year. This is, on average, 20% higher than the other months of the year.

I'm fortunate and while I have had things stolen from me in the past, my house has never been broken into. I'm grateful for that, but honestly, it's not because I've been especially cautious. It's just been out of sheer luck, I think. 

I grew up in small towns and live in one now. In these areas, it's common to leave your doors unlocked and curtains wide open because it's easy to trust your neighbors. Everybody in a small town knows everybody else so there's a sense of camaraderie and Neighborhood Watch (even when you don't want them to). Everybody knows who "belongs" and who doesn't, who's doing what, where their neighbors work, what time they get home, who their kids hang out with (and who they shouldn't be hanging out with). All in all, small towns are great for those reasons. Unfortunately, there's also a down side to that because it means everybody knows your every move - when you get home from work and which lights are left on when you're gone. It's easy to become too comfortable in towns this size. 

Last night, my friend's house was broken into. Fortunately, they got spooked and left before they had an opportunity to take much. That doesn't mean it's not unnerving to know that strangers were in the house without permission or knowledge. 

It made me think about how routine our lives are and how easy it would be for someone to rob our house. We discussed this at dinner tonight and we talked about ways to prevent this from happening. Some are obvious things, but others not so much. Our list might help you, so I'll share it here:

1. Lock your doors. Every time you enter and exit. Every. Time. Even if you're at home, even if you're only in the back yard, even if you're just taking a nap, even if you have a dog, even if you have a gun. Lock them. It won't necessarily stop somebody, but it makes it far more difficult to get in. Same goes for your car, shed, garage and other outbuildings. Double-check the window locks, too. It's easy to forget to lock them after the wonderful fall temps have turned cold.

2. Be unpredictable. If you work the same schedule day after day, change things up a bit. Come home for lunch a couple times a week. Take an occasional afternoon off or go into work late. If possible, work from home a day or two a week. Catch a ride with someone else so your car is in the driveway when it normally wouldn't be. If you go somewhere the same time every day or the same day every week, change it up. The more confusing your schedule can be to a potential burglar, the less likely they'll be to break in.

3. Close your curtains. During the Christmas season, it's tempting to leave your blinds and curtains open to show off the twinkly lights on your tree. Stop it. It makes it far too easy to window peep and see who's home. It also gives burglars the opportunity to take inventory of your belongings. When it gets dark, pull 'em closed.

4. Enlist friends. When you're going to be gone overnight or for any extended amount of time, have friends come over and check on things. Park a car in the driveway for a while, turn on different lights in the house and turn others off, turn on the clothes dryer, etc. Have them bring in mail, newspapers and any packages that may have been delivered. Ask if they'll stick around for an hour or two so the house appears lived in. Hire someone to shovel the walk (or in the summertime, mow the lawn) while you're gone. 

5. Make noise. I used to make fun of my mom because she left the television on when we left the house. I never understood why. I finally asked her one day and she said "because it deters burglars." If someone is lurking around your house and they can't see in, they're going to listen for activity: TV, radio, appliances, etc. They'll look for smoke in a chimney or the steam from a clothes dryer. Turn a TV on in one room and in another, leave a talk radio station on in a somewhat muted volume so it sounds like people talking. Plug your vacuum cleaner into a timer for five minutes (make sure it's angled so air can flow through it and it doesn't burn up the motor). Any noise will make a burglar think twice before breaking in. Also, if you still have a land line phone, turn the ringers off or turn it down to 2 rings instead of 4 before it switches to voice mail. Don't forget to turn your clock alarms off. It'll act like a beacon to shady people who are paying attention.

6. Shut up! If you're away from home, don't announce it on social media. (I'm horribly guilty of this.) Or, if you can't control the urge to discuss it, make sure to mention who's still at home or that you're grateful for house/pet sitters (even if you don't have them). At the bare minimum, set your statuses to private so nobody but friends can see what you've posted. Nothing says "I'll all but leave a key under the mat for you" like "Four days til the Bahamas!" on your Twitter.

Obviously, there's no foolproof way to prevent a break-in if someone really wants your stuff, but these are some of the ideas we came up with tonight at dinner. What are some of your suggestions?