Friday, April 30, 2010

Selling Your Book & Memoir: Part 1

We are very fortunate to have a place like The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I have attended many classes, workshops, and events over the years. The staff is fantastic, and the experiences have been wonderful. I've made some friends from The Loft, and enjoy visiting there as often as I can.

I was asked to write a piece about "selling your book out of the trunk of your car" (along with three other writers). I shared my experiences in A View from the Loft:

I’ve never been much of a salesperson. Now I’m faced with selling me. Working for corporations and nonprofits for years, I did get into marketing—brochures, newsletters, promoting the business. But it is harder to promote yourself. This is especially true when it comes to something as personal as a story that you lived through. I think writers tend to focus on the creating, and forget about the legwork.

When Voices of Multiple Sclerosis, the anthology in which I have an essay, was released, I was fortunate to start out with a publicist. She booked me on a local TV talk show for an interview that was less than five minutes long and in which I was asked very basic questions about the book. Since I was not only promoting myself, it was important to mention that there are 32 other authors in the book, who published it, and where people could find it. I thought I would be so nervous, but it was actually fun. Being in the famous “green room” at the television station with a comedian, a musician, and a fellow writer also made it interesting.

In the end, the publicity business is an ongoing process and learning experience. Next time, when the entire book is mine—and I know that time is coming—I hope I can take the experience of the anthology and understand the process better. Finishing the manuscript may give you a great sense of completion—and it should—but it’s really only the beginning.

Thanks again to my fellow writers, both on the site and in the book. And thanks to The Loft....especially Dara! It is so great to have a place that is so supportive of writers in the community. You guys rock!

There is another piece yet to come out attached to this on writing memoir and how the story has to be told - so this is, I guess, to be continued...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fatigue, Depression & Being Overwhelmed

I'm often told what an upbeat person I am. I always try to see the best in people, and I always try to see how good things still come out of bad experiences. I try to be positive, and many of my clients tell me I am the bright spot in their week. This is a great compliment, and I'm glad I can help them. But, one client took it further..."Don't you ever get depressed?"

YES! Doesn't everyone?

Lately, it has been very hard. Burnt out on a tough job that is crazy busy with way too many crisis situations all the time, worried about my mother who is still trying to heal from a tough back surgery almost thirty days ago now....and now the incision has broken open, may be infected, and she is retaining over sixty pounds of water - let alone being way too far away from her. But the toughest part is simply not having the energy to deal with all of it. And this in turn seems to turn into more of a depression than just the usual bouts we all get from time to time.

It is hard to understand the fatigue you get with Multiple Sclerosis. The usual response is, "Ya, I get really tired too." It isn't that I don't sympathize, but it isn't the same. I try to describe it as a really extreme jet lag. I usually plow through it all day and drop when I get home, but it isn't easy. And as the days get warmer, the heat makes it even worse. It is hard always having to be strong for everyone else when deep down you feel rather weak.

But today I came across a blog, Suite 101, that explained it better, as well as pulling in the depression that is always there with a chronic illness:
"Imagine feeling like a truck ran over you, not at the end of a long workday, not after coming back from an adventurous hike, not even after a rowdy day playing with your kids, but soon after getting up out of bed. This sort of exhaustion plagues many people with multiple sclerosis. It feels like having legs and arms made of cement, hindering you from performing even small tasks. This symptom can fluctuate throughout the day, leaving a person uncertain as to how much energy they will have. If the fatigue is caused by the disease, there are tricks to conserve energy, as well as medication to relieve it. If the problem stems from depression, therapy and antidepressants can also help. A theory behind disease-producing fatigue is that it takes a lot more energy to send messages along damaged nerves than normal ones."
So, I finally found a medication that helps with the fatigue (recommended by my neurologist), and my insurance (which is supposed to be good insurance) will not cover the generic version ($320), and recommends the the brand name ($85). I know it could be worse, but this just sucks. So, I found myself cutting the dose in half, which ended up not helping at all. Finally finding something that helps and then not being able to justify - or afford - the cost, is way too common of a problem with way too many people.

So, yes I get depressed. Sometimes I am just down, sometimes just overwhelmed, sometimes just sad. Lately all of the above. But, seriously, most of the time I do just push through it - but I, like many others with MS, am really just plain tired of being tired.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yes, There's a Black Man in the White House

A read in a recent poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS, that tea party members were more educated than most. What? This sounded like a joke when it came out. If the signs they hold, the "news" channel they watch, and the things they chant are any indication, I beg to differ.

Let's just be honest here. One of the main things they can't stand is the color of President
Obama's skin. He may be too liberal for them too, but he's most certainly more intelligent than the last guy who was in office.

In a post on one the funnier blogs out there, Margaret and Helen, she said it so well....once again:
"So now a black man named Barack Obama, elected by the will of the people, has decided to fight for the poor, and work for world peace… and a bunch of white guys who think Fox really is News just can’t stand it.

Well, they can kiss my ass because I am tired of their belly aching.

This is exactly how our political system works. Sometimes your party is in and sometimes it is out. Your party is currently out. So shut the hell up and deal with it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a group of disgruntled citizens banding together to form a third political party because they don’t feel represented by the other two. But let’s be honest - this bunch of idiots doesn’t like that a black man is the most powerful man on the globe. I wonder if they know that, while 78% of the world is not white, only 13% of the United States is black. So they can relax. Barack and Michelle most likely will not be buying the house next door.

Tea Party members should listen up. As long as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are your torchbearers, you don’t have much credibility with me. One echoes between the ears and the other is 12 shy of a dozen. You honestly want me to think that your biggest issue is the cost of healthcare reform? You sat idly by while Bush squandered billions on a failed war, but all children having health insurance is too much to handle? That’s your beef? You realize, of course, that some of those children are white, don’t you?

Please. You might not be wearing hoods, but your misspelled signs are one step shy of a burning cross. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Thank you for stating it like it is. And thank you for your honesty...what was that last statement by McCain stating he never said he was a maverick? This honesty seems to be something that is severely lacking on the other side.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Memories of Grease & a Disgusting Invention

We all make mistakes. And sometimes it takes a long time for us to learn from those mistakes. Sometimes we can blame it on being too young. Sometimes we can blame it on being under the influence of something (probably when we were too young). Most of the time - especially when we are older - we regret these mistakes. I choose to look at them as learning experiences - learn a little, move on, try not to repeat.

I've made quite a few mistakes in my life, and will probably make quite a few more. One of the biggest ones to date was marrying way too young to a man who was wrong for me on way too many levels. As my older brother pleaded with me ("He's a small town boy, you're not a small town girl," along with "You're way too young!"), I went ahead and did it anyway. Looking back, I can't figure out what I was thinking - or if I was thinking at all. Why all the red flags hitting me in the face were ignored. Why I chose to ignore the difference in intelligence, the difference in ambition, the difference in culture....why oh why?

So, I have to admit when I saw the latest concoction that KFC came out with, it reminded me of my former husband. How when everyone else was going to college he was working there. How every night he would be doused in chicken grease, wearing it like cologne on his clothes and in his hair. How he brought buckets full of the nasty stuff home to his roommates (and to the bar where he traded it for beer...yet another red flag). And how his only ambition was to be the assistant manager of the place - in a college town where everyone else was only eating it because it was free and they were up late studying for exams.

I admit I liked the coleslaw. But I think it was about that time that I grossed out on meat altogether and decided to become a vegetarian once and for all. So, I have to say that the latest invention by KFC has to be one of the most disgusting things they have come up with yet. As reported on the Huffington Post:

Do you know what I'm talking about yet? Have you seen it? Apparently, for many months, people who run the snarky junk food blogs on the Interwebs heard rumors that KFC was testing this item, and thought it might be a joke, a viral gimmick. Or if not that, then something that certainly would never make it to market, given how it looks like some sort of frat-boy prank, like the drones at KFC's test kitchens got completely hammered one night and had a bet as to who could come up with the most repulsive menu item imaginable.

Behold, the KFC Double Down sandwich. It is, if you really want to know, two slabs of fried chicken intersliced with two pieces of bacon, two slabs of cheese, and the Colonel's "special sauce." It comes in the form of a sandwich, with the fried chicken where the bread used to be. It's sort of hilarious.

Did you notice? How in one pseudo-food item, you are consuming not one, not two, but the mutated, chemically injected flesh/byproducts of fully three different distended, liquefied, industrially tortured creatures? Feel the love, pitiable animal kingdom.

What's more, some fast food companies are trying, at least a little, to respond to the call for slightly healthier foods, adding salads and fruit and grilled chicken breasts to their menus, even though every single one of those items is just as jammed with chemicals, preservatives, synthetic flavorings and high-fructose corn syrup as the rest, and all the "healthy" meat products are still raised on the most execrable, environmentally rapacious industrial feedlots imaginable. But hey, it's something, right?

Further, some argue that it's a bit disingenuous to blame the junk food purveyors for all the obesity, cancer, impotence, bad skin and colonic pain in the land. After all, the undereducated masses love to eat this garbage, right? KFC test-marketed this Double Down death bomb for months, to (presumably) great effect.

Of course, it's sort of a foregone conclusion, a rigged game. This vile meatwich is crammed like a grenade with sodium, sugar, fat and chemicals. Ergo, the testers, presumably people with taste buds devastated by years of cramming similar compost into their guts, thought it was pure nirvana. And then their colons exploded.

So, as I said, most intelligent people learn from their mistakes. In the case of this food, let's move on to healthier things. Really. I moved on from the former husband covered in this greasy stuff - many years ago. The spots on the shirts were disgusting we really want to put this into our bodies?

In a similar fashion, neither should have happened in the first place. But, learn I have. And as a writer, its all book material as far as I'm concerned. It reminds me of an old joke I read years ago: "A ham and egg breakfast is a day's work for the chicken, but a lifetime commitment for the pig." Just goes to show you, its all in perspective. And, yes, I made a commitment too, but at least I finally had the sense to walk away. I would suggest the same for this disgusting, can't-possibly-be-good-for-you mess as well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hiawatha Yoga in a New Location

Hiawatha Yoga had its grand opening at its new location last night (see original post from January 19, 2010.) The classes really do stick with the philosophy of "yoga and wellness for every body." The point is that you can learn to be more healthy and flexible, while reducing stress. As one class member commented at the opening, "Sue is great because she asks you not only what you need, but what kind of day you've had. "

She has also added a Sunday class that is yoga in a chair for people that are less mobile. Her classes are small and personable - and she has very reasonable price packages:

Class Schedule from 5/1/10 - 8/31/10:
Wednesdays: 7:30 PM
Saturdays: 9:30 AM
Sundays: Yoga in a Chair: 3:00-3:45 PM
& 4:00-5:00 PM

Intro to Yoga:
Saturdays, 10:45-11:30 AM
Go to to register. "Hiawatha Yoga's hatha vinyasa classes are designed to help you escape from stress and revitalize your spirit," and, with practice, can put you on the road to a healthier, more relaxed mind and body.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Service Dogs & Social Services

In one of those extremely trying days at work which started with very early morning phone calls, I have to admit there are times that I really wonder why I'm in social services. Someday I do indeed plan to write full-time, but for now I see myself as helping people and gathering lots of material...

Near the end of the day, after working with three especially nice clients, I realized that although it is tough, it is indeed rewarding helping people. Especially when the people are so thankful and the help is so needed.

Of all the things I've been able to do over the years, my most fulfilling has been being able to help clients get service dogs. Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge dog lover, but these dogs are actually quite amazing.

One client is a man in a wheelchair who has a wonderful black and white Cockapoo named Oreo. Oreo is a service dog - well-trained, smart, attentive. He adores his owner and would do just about anything for him. He does everything from picking things up for him - including going to get the phone if he falls - to just being a fun, affectionate companion. He is one of the nicest dogs you would ever meet and has the face and temperament of an old soul there to provide you with wisdom and guidance.


Another client is a woman who is an amputee with an adorable Yorkie named Tex. A fifteen pound dog who is convinced he is a big dog, Tex seems to almost swagger when he walks, has silky fur, and does everything for his owner from picking things up for her, hitting her Lifeline button when she falls, grabbing her shoe and putting it on her scooter when it is time to go out, and lately he has taken to curling up to her and putting his head on her shoulder and calming her down when she is anxious. He has the face of an angel and the heart to match.


When Al Franken penned the bill for service dogs for veterans, I was thrilled. Not only are many of them coming back with brain injuries and physical disabilities, but also with a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the New York Times:
Under a bill written by Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, veterans with P.T.S.D. will get service dogs as part of a pilot program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Training a psychiatric service dog and pairing it with a client costs more than $20,000. The government already helps provide dogs to soldiers who lost their sight or were severely wounded in combat, but had never considered placing dogs for emotional damage.
The bill provides so much for men and women who have suffered from the war. This already confirms something widely known in social services: dogs provide healing, companionship, and courage to so many who are disabled emotionally, mentally, and physically. In a couple of cases cited in the article:
Just weeks after Chris Goehner, 25, an Iraq war veteran, got a dog, he was able to cut in half the dose of anxiety and sleep medications he took for post-traumatic stress disorder. The night terrors and suicidal thoughts that kept him awake for days on end ceased.

Aaron Ellis, 29, another Iraq veteran with the stress disorder, scrapped his medications entirely soon after getting a dog — and set foot in a grocery store for the first time in three years.

The dogs to whom they credit their improved health are not just pets. Rather, they are psychiatric service dogs specially trained to help traumatized veterans leave the battlefield behind as they reintegrate into society.

I am also happy for another client, who, along with a friend, has started the first company in the United States for service dogs for psychiatric disorders: Pet Accolades. Their very first dog is a Springer Spaniel named Kirby. Although there are many dogs trained for the physically disabled, they are working on "providing service dogs for those with invisible disabilities." This will open up service and companion dogs for people who could not get them previously. It's the beginning of something that will help so many.


I am proud of Senator Al Franken. I am proud of my clients with service dogs. But I am especially proud of my client who has taken it upon herself to start a company where there has been a huge void. Her innovation, caring, and creativity will open up many doors for many people. Dog lovers know dogs can be great for you in so many ways, but in the case of service and companion dogs, they go way beyond the call of duty.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rush Limbaugh and His Idle Threat

I've written about Rush Limbaugh a few times in the past. I find the man to be quite his sexist comments, in his racist remarks, in his just plain stupidity. He brings hypocrisy to a whole new level, and his disrespect of President Obama is downright wrong.

His recent statement that he would leave the country if healthcare was passed, frankly, had quite a number of people pretty excited. Healthcare was passed, yet he is still here.

According to Joe Queenan in the LA Times, who wrote a great piece: Rush Limbaugh, Healthcare, and Idle Threats:
As the battle over "Obamacare" was reaching fever pitch, Rush Limbaugh threatened to leave the United States if the healthcare bill passed. Well, the bill did pass, and he's still here.

Last week I read about a new poll indicating that if the healthcare bill passed, 46% of primary-care physicians would close up shop. Well, it's passed, so now it's time to put your money where your mouth is, physicians of the republic. The same goes for you, Rush. First you threatened to leave New York City if a new tax on the rich got passed. The legislation is now law, but it took you a year to put your Manhattan apartment on the market. Then came the Costa Rica threat, but two weeks after Obamacare passed, you're not there.

This is unmanly and unconscionable. If you tell everybody that you're so fed up with the direction the country is headed that you're going to leave, then you are morally obligated to leave, or at least give your fellow Americans a timetable for your departure. Otherwise, the rest of us find ourselves in a Boy Who Cried Wolf scenario, wondering what whopper you'll tell next. But unlike the boy, who only told a fib, you committed a truly unforgivable crime. You got people's hopes up.

I agree. I'd be happy to just have the man off the airwaves. No one really needs to hear not only his idle threats, but all the other vile junk he spews. If it isn't sexist, or racist, or disrespectful to someone, what's left. So, keep your promise, Rush. Go. And, in the last move in your hypocrisy, pick a country like Costa Rica...which has a public healthcare system just like the one you've been speaking against.