Remembering a friend, Beth Hough Koestal

Yesterday I did something that was very difficult. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided not to attend a memorial service for an old friend. She died in Waterloo, Belgium on February 26. Due to the pandemic, her memorial service at her home church, Bethel United Methodist in Midland, North Carolina, had to be postponed until yesterday.

Teresa Beth Hough Koestal, Artist and Friend

I got to know Beth in the ninth grade. She stood out in the crowd even at that age in our class of around 200 students. She was artistic and funny. She was unassuming and gracious. She was beautiful inside and out.

Her leadership qualities were rewarded our senior year when she was elected class president. A group of us girlfriends rode together to a concert at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte one night. The main attraction for us was teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman. I’m not certain, but I believe Beth was our driver. That was about as wild and crazy as we got back in the day.

Beth’s artistic ability blossomed and, by our senior year, we knew we were in the presence of a true artist. After college, Beth eventually moved to New York City, where she met her husband, Jaap Koestal. Jaap was from The Netherlands. They moved to Amsterdam and Beth starting making a name for herself in the European art world.  

They later moved to Belgium, where she continued to hone her craft. She was commissioned to paint many paintings and portraits. A highlight in her career was when she was commissioned to paint more than eighty plein air paintings commemorating the bicentenary anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015.

She even created a series of coloring books about the Battle of Waterloo to entice children to learn about history and appreciate art. She sent me several sketches from her coloring books while they were in the planning stages for me and my sister to give her feedback. Like I was qualified to do that!

In recent years, Beth and I communicated occasionally via Facebook and Facebook private messages. She knew that now in our sixties, I was an aspiring novelist. She sent words of encouragement along my journey. My novel isn’t published yet. I had looked forward to the day I could send her a copy with my thanks and admiration.

She was one of those people who found the most interesting and varied things to share on Facebook – whether it be art, archeology, architecture, nature, or science. She loved to learn new things and was interested in everything.

To learn more about Beth’s work, visit https://teresabethhough.com/.

During this pandemic, it wasn’t an easy decision not to attend Beth’s memorial service. I have not attended several funerals in the last several months, including one for one of my first cousins. A part of me just can’t believe Beth is gone. I thought going to her memorial service would make her death more real for me, but I was afraid to go and risk catching the coronavirus.

This is life during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Until my next blog post

Stay safe. Stay well. Wear a mask out of respect for others.

Janet

Books Read in May 2020

To have had 31 days, the month of May passed leaving me feeling like I didn’t read very much. Actually, I read a lot. There were several books I started but didn’t finish. That’s what left me feeling as if I didn’t read much. There are always more books to be read than I have time to read. What a fortunate situation!

The books I chose to read in May were all over the place. Three of them turned out not to be what I expected, which is always disappointing.

A Conspiracy of Bones, by Kathy Reichs

This is Kathy Reichs’ latest novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in Mecklenburg and Lincoln counties in North Carolina and Lake Wylie, South Carolina, the book features Reichs’ well-known protagonist, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A Conspiracy of Bones, by Kathy Reichs

Temperance is at odds with the new Mecklenburg County medical examiner. Against the medical examiner’s wishes and orders, Temperance pursues the case of a body found in Lincoln County. There are gory details about the state of the body, but the story line concentrates on who killed the man and why.

In the process of solving the crime, Temperance faces bodily harm and attempts on her life. She has a knack for going where she shouldn’t go and getting into all sorts of situations. Fairly early on, Temperance suspects the larger case involves child pornography. Is she correct, or is this a red herring Ms. Reichs included just to throw us off track?

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

After listening to this book for three hours and having 21 more hours remaining – and reading a synopsis of it – I decided I couldn’t concentrate long enough to listen to the rest of it. The synopsis revealed a plot that sounded better suited for a series of books. I just couldn’t finish it.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

The prose was vivid, explicit, beautiful, and at times humorous. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was just another book I couldn’t concentrate enough to see it through.

Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain

After Cutting for Stone, this book was a delight. It is the eighth book I’ve read by Diane Chamberlain. I’m tempted to say it’s my favorite of the eight, but that might just be because I just finished it.

Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain

Set in Edenton, North Carolina in 1940 and 2018, it is a story of racial discrimination, rape, child neglect, trust, jealousy, revenge, and love.

Ms. Chamberlain weaves an intriguing tale of a woman coming from “up North” to paint a large mural on the wall of the post office in Edenton. There is backlash because a local male artist had applied for the job. When a local black high school student is invited by the artist to assist her in the project, tongues in the small town wagged.

Decades later, an artist who is serving a prison term for a crime her boyfriend committed is chosen to get early parole if she will restore the mural. This leads to the discovery of several bizarre aspects of the mural. The restoring artist sets out to find out what became of the original artist and why she included the strange items and images in the mural. Add to this the suspense of an almost impossible deadline for the restoration and opening of an art museum, and you have the ingredients for a beautifully written mystery.

Writing Vivid Plots:  Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer’s Craft Book 20), by Rayne Hall

This book probably won’t interest you unless you are learning the craft of fiction writing. If you are a student of fiction writing, though, I recommend the book.

Writing Vivid Plots helped me in two specific ways. It explained the important differences in plotting a serial and a series. It also had a short chapter about the difference in plotting a novel and plotting a short story.

By the way, a serial is a story broken into different installments that should be read in order. A series is a group of books having the same characters but which usually stand on their own and can be read in any order.

Long Bright River, by Liz Moore

As often happens lately, I can’t remember what prompted me to get on the waitlist for this book at the public library. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. How it had been described to me must have left something out. A true representation of the book wouldn’t have led me to want to read it.

Long Bright River, by Liz Moore

This is Liz Moore’s fourth novel and the first of hers I’ve read. The book is well-written. In fact, listening to it held my attention. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the way the book left me feeling hopeless against the drug abuse problem in our world.

Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick is a Philadelphia police officer. She tires of all the murders in her district. It seems that most of prostitutes. Every time another murder call comes in, she holds her breath for fear that this time it was her sister, Kacey. Their childhoods weren’t happy. There was little love in the family. The two sisters, once so very close, went their separate ways.

The overriding story is that of family drama, but it’s all wrapped up in the opioid crisis. I never lost interest in the book, as I wanted to know what happened to Kacey. Also, there was Mickey’s son, Thomas. Or was he her son? In the end there was some hope that Kacey would stay clean and never start using drugs again, but it left me with scant hope.

This novel left me rather depressed about the outlook for Kacey, Mickey, and the two children they had between them in the end. In that respect, the book is probably a true reflection of family life when a member is addicted to drugs. It’s also a true reflection of how every member of a family is affected when one member is abusing drugs – and what an empty feeling is left when that person dies as a result of their addiction.

I’m glad I listened to the book. After I finished listening to it, I read a review in which the writer talked about how confusing it was to try to read a book with no quotation marks. Ditto that for me. I wouldn’t have stuck with a physical copy of the book.

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

Having read State of Wonder, The Dutch House, and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I looked forward to reading Commonwealth, her novel published in 2016. Commonwealth never drew me in. I was listening to it, which I think probably made it more difficult for me to keep all the characters straight.

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

I couldn’t identify with any of the characters, so I never felt invested in the story. It started in California at a christening party where every one got drunk. This is not my life experience, so right off the bat I couldn’t identify with these people. Then, it jumped 50 years later with all the same family members, including a raft of cousins.

The book just didn’t appeal to me. I listened to it for three and a half hours but wasn’t motivated to listen to another seven hours.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See

It amazes me how time passes. If someone had asked me when I started reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See, but had to return it to the public library before I got even halfway through it, I would have guessed, “Sometime last year.” The joke is on me, though, for when I looked back through my blog posts to see if I referenced reading part of this book, I was stunned to find that it was exactly three years ago! In my blog post on June 2, 2017, I commented that the book had fascinated me “in how it shed light on some of the superstitions held by the Chinese.” Here’s the link to that post: https://janetswritingblog.com/2017/06/02/you-need-to-read-these-books/.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See

I also wrote in that blog post: “The novel follows a young Chinese girl who is painfully aware from birth that she is not valued because she is female. Her family has to walk for hours to pick tea leaves for a meager amount of income. It is a difficult life. Her mother is the local midwife and she tells her daughter that she must follow in her footsteps in that occupation. There is a ray of hope, though, because her school teacher tells her that she can leave the harsh mountain environment and make something of herself. I look forward to checking the book out again in order to see how her life turns out!”

Three years later, I checked out the MP3 edition of the book and listened to it on my tablet. There is so much more to the book than my first impressions. I can’t believe it took me three years to return to it. Although the early part of the book was familiar to me, I listened to it from start to finish.

This is a rich story that follows Li-Yan throughout her life. She is intellectually gifted, but life places many stumbling blocks in her path. She falls in love and has a child – a girl. Having a child out of wedlock in China in 1995 was taboo, and out of shame Li-Yan puts her baby in a cardboard box along with a tea cake and leaves the box near an orphanage.

Li-Yan’s life continues to be full of strife, but she never stops loving her baby and wondering where she is and what her life is like. Learning that she was adopted by an American couple and raised in the United States, she could only hope she had a good life.

The novel also follows the life of Li-Yan’s baby, now named Haley. Through an interesting turn of events, Haley becomes interested in tea, which leads her back to her homeland.

My description of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is woefully inadequate. The novel is described on Lisa See’s website, http://www.lisasee.com/books-new/the-tea-girl-of-hummingbird-lane/, as “A powerful story about two women separated by circumstance, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and a celebration of the bonds of family.”

Since my last blog post

Civil unrest has erupted in cities all over the United States in response to last Monday’s death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer who used excessive force against Mr. Floyd which resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death. I am sad, and I am angry. I believe that most law enforcement officers are good people, but there is a growing problem in America of white police officers using excessive force against people of dark skin. It is indicative of a deep-seated racial prejudice.

The events of this past week and conversations I’ve had with other bloggers and friends on Facebook have been eye-opening. I know that some of my Facebook friends – many of whom I have known since first grade – are prejudiced. They have shown their true colors since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, and it has surprised and saddened me to learn these things about the people I thought I knew. I have come to realize that the America that I was taught as a young student to see as “a melting pot” is not a melting pot at all. It never was. It is a myth that has been perpetuated for more than 200 years.

America is at a crossroads. We each have a choice to make. Are we going to bury our heads in the sand and pretend we are fine and everyone around us is fine? Or are we going to stand up for the abused? When we see injustice, are we going to turn our heads and keep silent? If so, nothing will ever change. Until those of us with lighter skin recognize that we have benefited and profited from our white privilege, nothing will change. Until we speak up against injustice, nothing will change.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you are a writer or other artist, I hope you have productive creative time.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post today.

Stay safe. Stay well. Wear a face mask as a show of respect for others.

Let’s continue the conversation OR Our call to action

Examine your life, as I will continue to examine mine. Ask yourself if you truly see others as your equal. Examine your beliefs and look for the myths among them. After taking an honest inventory of your “philosophy of life,” take action. Register to vote. Write letters to your elected officials – local, state, and national – and tell them where you stand. Tell them the changes you want to see. Tell them what bothers you about the status quo. Perhaps more importantly, even during this Covid-19 pandemic, reach out to people who don’t look like you. Find common ground from which you can begin an honest conversation.

If you want some tips about how to have that difficult conversation, I recommend LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens. I wrote about this book in my blog post on April 13, 2020, https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/04/13/leapfrog-and-the-immoral-majority/.

LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

Janet

My Historical Short Stories

Upon completion of a fiction writing course I took in 2001 through the continuing education department of Queens University of Charlotte, I was afforded the opportunity to join the Queens Writers Group. The group thrived under the guidance of Queens University writing instructor Judith H. Simpson.

Before Judy’s death and the subsequent disbanding of the Queens Writers Group, I got to write historical short stories that were published in two books:  Inheriting Scotland, edited by Theresa Reilly Alsop in 2002 and Tales For a Long Winter’s Night, edited by Judith H. Simpson in 2003. Both books were self-published in paperback and printed on-demand.

Look for "The Tailor's Shears" in this book of short stories
Inheriting Scotland, edited by Theresa Reilly Alsop

Inheriting Scotland

For a story to be considered for inclusion in Inheriting Scotland, I had to choose an item that had been hidden away in Lochar Castle in Scotland centuries ago and write a short story around that item’s history when it is discovered in the 21st century. The item I selected was the tailor’s shears. My story, “The Tailor’s Shears,” is set in 1703 and begins on page 177.  Inheriting Scotland is available in paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon.com.

Tales for a Long Winter’s Night

Imagine my surprise when Judy told me that she had selected my story, “Slip-Sliding Away!” to be the lead story in Tales for a Long Winter’s Night! She praised the strength of my story and gave my writing ego a boost. My story is set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina in the year 1771.

I got the idea for “Slip-Sliding Away” from an oral history story about the funeral of President Andrew Jackson’s father. In my story, why did Daniel die? And why was his funeral so funny? This book is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and my story begins on page 3.

The short story about which I'm proudest.
Tales for a Long Winter’s Night, edited by Judith H. Simpson

It was a thrill to see something I’d written in print for the first time! I had fun writing the two stories and have toyed with the idea of writing several more historical short stories for self-publication in book form. I hold the rights to both stories, so I can publish them as I wish.


What’s next for me?

My semi-confinement due to my fractured leg and subsequent pulmonary embolism seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to pursue the idea of writing a collection of short stories. On February 29 I started working on a couple of short stories. I plan to write several stories set in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It’s not been easy to get my creative juices running during this new normal in which we find ourselves. Slowly, though, I’ve gotten back into doing the historical research necessary for the writing of historical fiction. Although I take creative license in imagining some relationships and all conversations, I try to make the setting and the people as true to life as I can based on my research.

Most recently, I’ve enjoyed reading and rereading some documents and various books that offer background information for the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Signed by 27 men of some standing in old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (made up of the present counties of Cabarrus, Union, and Mecklenburg) on May 20, 1775, it predates the national Declaration of Independence by more than a year.

I’ve written a rough draft of a story set in May 1775 in Mecklenburg County from the perspective of a couple who feared that war with Great Britain was inevitable.

You’ll be the first to know when I’m ready to self-publish a collection of my stories! I think it will be a good way to “get my name out there” before I finish editing my historical novel. Self-publication will be a learning experience for me and one that I will gladly share on my blog. Stay tuned!

Since my last blog post

In addition to researching and writing a short story, I’ve been for physical therapy twice. It’s strange to put on a mask and enter a place of business where the receptionist and therapist are wearing masks and to try to make small talk when there’s nothing happening except the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s slowly sinking in that things will never go back to the way they were in 2019.

Restaurants in North Carolina are still open only for take-out or delivery. Banks are open on reduced hours. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies remain open for pick-up and delivery. As of May 8 at 5:00 pm, a few stores opened in the state, but there are restrictions on how many people can be inside a store at any time. As of Friday, we in North Carolina entered “Phase One” of reopening for business. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

Each of the 50 states in the US have their own rules and regulations for reopening businesses and getting people back to work. It is a confusing hodge-podge of conflicting and restrictions. I don’t think anyone knows just how bad this pandemic is and will continue to be for years to come until a vaccine is developed and made available worldwide.

Until my next blog post

Be creative. Be careful. Stay safe. Stay well.

I hope you have a good book to read. Last night I finished listening to Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain.

Let’s continue the conversation

Do you like to read short stories? Would you consider purchasing a book of my short stories? (Don’t worry. I won’t hold you to it!)

Janet

A Variety of Books Read in April 2020

When April ended last Thursday, I was surprised to find that I’d read seven books during the month. Whether it was a result of the pandemic or the tedium of the last weeks of the 13 weeks I couldn’t walk, I don’t know. I just know I couldn’t seem to concentrate to read or listen to much fiction. I had better luck reading nonfiction books.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I get most of my books from the public library. The public libraries here closed suddenly in mid-March. Some books I wanted to read were not available from the public library in downloadable form. Waitlists for e-books filled up quickly as people realized it would be weeks or months before they could once again check out physical books.

What I discovered last month was that, in addition to reading books about the craft of writing, it was a good time to tackle my to-be-read (TBR) list. That list is made up of several hundred books I didn’t read when they were published. Some of the books on the list are books I realized months or years after their publication that I had become interested in them.

I read seven books in April. Here are my thoughts about them.


Sycamore Row, by John Grisham

I finally got around to listening to Sycamore Row, by John Grisham. What a treat! It was entertaining and funny.

A humorous legal thriller by John Grisham
Sycamore Row, by John Grisham

This book takes us back to the fictional Ford County, Mississippi that Mr. Grisham first wrote about in A Time to Kill. Sycamore Row is a story of inheritance, family greed, a non-relative who inherits everything in Seth Hubbard’s will, and some questionable lawyers. Everyone in town gets interested after it is revealed that Mr. Hubbard’s estate exceeded $20 million.

The path to justice in Sycamore Row runs from Mississippi to Alaska and back to Mississippi. There are surprised witnesses and in the end the reader learns the significance of the sycamore tree.


The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides had been on my to-be-read (TBR) list since I heard all the hype about it when it was published last year. This was reinforced when the movie adaptation was publicized. Yet, I didn’t read it until a couple of weeks ago. Or, rather, I listened to it. I regretted not reading it earlier.

The Silent Patient, a psychological thriller by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides

The silent patient is Alicia, who murdered her husband, Gabriel, and immediately stopped talking. The narrator throughout most of the novel is Theo, a psychoanalyst who sets out to help Alicia.

In the midst of Theo’s quest to get Alicia to talk – and ultimately, to tell why she killed her husband, Theo discovers vulgar emails his wife of nearly nine years has exchanged with another man.

The Silent Patient was Alex Michaelides’ debut novel. This psychological thriller will keep you turning pages (or speeding up the rate at which the audiobook is being read to you.”

Alicia is a famous artist in London. Her new-found notoriety as a killer makes the price of her paintings skyrocket as she is safely tucked away in a secure facility being analyzed. As the story unfolds, the focus transitions from Alicia to Theo himself and his psychological state. He visits his former therapist, Ruth, who guides Theo through his own feelings of inadequacy. She encourages him to leave his wife.

Then Alicia becomes the temporary narrator in Part 2, Chapter 13. She reveals how much she hates the rifle Gabriel inherited from his father. She describes the days leading up to her shooting Gabriel five times.

A new twist to the story is revealed. At this point, you’re only halfway through The Silent Patient. A lot is packed in this book of only 336 pages (or less than nine hours of listening.)

In case you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you.


Everything Happens for a Reason:  And Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler

I read a little about this book online and immediately got on the waitlist for the ebook at the public library.

The author, Kate Bowler, was raised an Anabaptist in a section of Manitoba, Canada containing numerous Mennonite communities. She learned early on that Jesus lived and taught the virtues of a simple life. Around the age of 18, Ms. Bowler started hearing about the “prosperity gospel” that many televangelists were preaching. It seemed that everyone was being attracted to this new idea that Jesus wants His followers to be wealthy.

Ms. Bowler describes the “prosperity gospel” as follows: “The prosperity gospel is a theodicy, an explanation for the problem of evil. It is an answer to the questions that take our lives apart:  Why do some people get healed and some don’t?….The prosperity gospel looks at the world as it is and promises a solution.”

In her mid-twenties, Ms. Bowler interviewed “the prosperity gospel’s celebrities” and then wrote a history of the movement. What she found was that the prosperity gospel encourages its leaders to buy private jets and mansions. What she also found were people seeking a way to escape the lives they were living. Some wanted the high life, but most wanted relief from some kind of pain.

Something else Ms. Bowler found was that a part of her sought an escape, even as she cringed at the guarantees the prosperity gospel made. She came to believe God would make a way for her and hardships would merely be detours; however, she no longer believes that.

As a new mother, Ms. Bowler was diagnosed with cancer, and she was told, “Everything happens for a reason” and “God is writing a better story” until she didn’t want to hear it again. It made her feel like everyone had a theory about why she had cancer.

“I wish this were a different kind of story. But this is a book about befores and afters and how people in the midst of pain make up their minds about the eternal questions:  Why? Why is this happening to me? What could I have done differently? Does everything actually happen for a reason? If I accept that what is happening is something I cannot change, can I learn how to let go?” – Kate Bowler

I sort of got mired down in the details in rest of the book and eventually lost interest in finishing it. I could not identify with all her “Why me?” thoughts and questions. I’ve had my share of physical problems, but I’ve never asked God, “Why me?” I tend to think, “Why not me?” Jesus never promised us a perfect life. He promised to be with us throughout our lives, no matter what happens.

Kate Bowler teaches at the Duke Divinity School.


The Whistler, by John Grisham

In my blog post on April 6, 2020, https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/04/06/eight-books-i-read-in-march-2020/ , I said, “A John Grisham novel has never disappointed me.” That statement probably still holds. I listened to The Whistler in April, but I didn’t get “into” it like I have the other Grisham books I’ve read. Let’s just say it was probably my fault and not Mr. Grisham’s.

The Whistler, by John Grisham

Much of April I seemed weighed down mentally by all the news about the coronavirus-19 pandemic. Many days I had trouble concentrating enough to read. I was trying to listen to The Whistler during one of those reading slumps. I would probably enjoy it more if I read it or listened to it during normal times.


Revolutionary Characters: What Made The Founders Different, by Gordon S. Wood

I minored in history in college, and this book reminded me of a history text book. In other words, it told me more than I wanted to know about each of the men the author sees as founders of America. Each chapter was about a different man, and one of them surprised me. I would have liked the book better if Mr. Wood had included several women.

Revolutionary Characters: What Made The Founders Different, by Gordon S. Wood

I’m planning to write a blog post on June 29 about some of the founders of America, so I’ll save my other comments about this book until that time.

I won’t hold you in suspense until then, though. The founder I was surprised to find on Mr. Wood’s list of eight men was Aaron Burr.

Stay tuned for more on this topic in a couple of months, just before the 4th of July.


Writing Vivid Settings: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors, by Rayne Hall

I’m sure many of you couldn’t care less about the techniques fiction authors use to write vivid settings. If you’re a fiction fan, you just want the settings in the books you read to be so vivid that they put you there.

I took copious notes from this book, and I believe I learned more than a few things that will improve my writing skills. The book addresses ways to include all the senses in one’s writing, varying sentence structure, using weather for intensity, light to set mood, and detail for realism – but not too much detail, and using similes for world building – but not too many of them. The book gets into deep point-of-view, opening scenes, fight scenes, scary scenes, love scenes, night scenes, indoor scenes word choice, and research.

I highly recommend this book for anyone learning to write fiction.


Fiction Pacing: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors, by Rayne Hall

I also found this book by Rayne Hall to be helpful. In it, she addresses varying the pace throughout a novel. She writes about how the length of sentences and paragraphs can either speed up the action or slow it down. Even word length enters into that, along with how to craft dialogue.

The book talks about how to use (and not use) techniques like flashbacks and memories, euphonics, strong verbs, and descriptions to control the pace in fiction.

Ms. Hall has written numerous writing craft books and I look forward to reading more of them.


Since my last blog post

X-rays last week showed good healing of my fractured tibial plateau so, after 13 long weeks, I was finally allowed to start putting some weight on my right leg. I feel like I’d been set free! I can now go anywhere my walker and I can go. I haven’t tried steps yet! It’s great to be able to go outside, even if we are still under a state-at-home order in North Carolina. I’m thrilled just to be able to walk outside!

Until my next blog post

Read a good book, if you have the luxury of time and concentration. I’m currently listening to A Conspiracy of Bones, by Kathy Reichs.

Be creative. If you are a writer or other artist, I hope you have productive creative time.

Stay safe and well. Listen to the medical professionals. We’re all in this together. The life you safe might be mine!

Let’s continue the conversation

If you’ve read The Whistler, by John Grisham, what did you think about it?  What have you read lately that you would recommend to the rest of us? Have you supported an independent bookstore recently? If you want to give a shout-out to an independent bookstore, feel free to do so in the comments below or the comments on my Facebook page when I post this blog post later today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Janet

An Adventurer’s Personality? Who, me?

I recently took a free online personality test. It was an interesting way to spend a few minutes. It sized me up fairly well on some counts, but I still haven’t figured out how it arrived at the assessment that I have an adventurer’s personality.

The article I read talked about how a writer’s writing process should be designed based on his or her personality. With that in mind, I took the test on https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test and had the following results:

1.  I’m 92% an introvert when it comes to how I interact with my environment. The only surprise there was that it wasn’t 100%!

2.  I spend 55% of my mental energy observing.

3.  I’m slightly more feeling than thinking by nature when making decisions or planning.

4.  I’m evenly split between being “judging” and “prospecting” when it comes to my work, planning, and decision-making tactics.

5.  I am 79% turbulent and 21% assertive in my confidence in my abilities and decisions. The test website said this is my identity and “this tract underpins all others.” That’s spot on!

The “bottom line” was that I have the personality of an adventurer. Say what? I read on because I really don’t see myself as an adventurer. Here’s the introduction to the explanation:

“Adventurer personalities are true artists, but not necessarily in the typical sense where they’re happy out painting little trees…. Rather, it’s that they see aesthetics, design and even their choices and actions to push the limits of social convention. Adventurers enjoy upsetting traditional expectations with experiments in beauty and behavior – chances are, they’ve expressed more than once the phrase, ‘Don’t box me in!’”

It goes on to say that adventurers seem unpredictable and they like risky behaviors.

A ski jumper
Photo by Maarten Duineveld on Unsplash

Risky behaviors? The examples given are gambling and extreme sports. No way! I don’t even know how to purchase a lottery ticket, and the most extreme sport I’ve played is basketball.

The website says adventurers don’t take biting criticism well. Yes, that’s me, and it doesn’t bode well for me as I try to get my novel published.

Someone having a trantrum
Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

It said adventurers need to take “time each day to understand their motivations” to allow them “to use their strengths to pursue whatever they’ve come to love.”

It seems, according to the website, I’m charming, sensitive to others, imaginative, passionate, curious, and artistic. I don’t know about charming.

An adventurer’s weaknesses

Now we’ll explore my supposed weaknesses. Apparently, according to the website, I’m fiercely independent, unpredictable, easily stressed, overly competitive, and have fluctuating self-esteem. I’m not sure about being unpredictable. I am independent and easily stressed, but I don’t see myself as overly competitive. Am I?

It says I’m spontaneous and not a good planner. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I love to plan trips down to the nth degree! As I mentioned in my blog post last week, https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/04/20/support-an-independent-bookstore-please/, I plan my blog post topics a year in advance. I make lists. I don’t always follow through with those lists, but I continue to make them. I’m a planner.

Other traits of adventurers

The website says adventurers abide by “live and let live,” but they need lots of personal space and freedom. Yes, that’s me.

It says adventurers make fun parents. I’ve always said God knew what He was doing when he didn’t give me children. I have never had the patience a good parent needs.

In career, it says adventurers are experimenters and trendsetters. That’s so not me! It says in the workplace, an adventurer does not like rules and is a risk taker. That’s not me at all! As a supervisor, it says an adventurer doesn’t like controlling others and often jumps right in to work on a project with subordinates. I think that was the kind of manager I was.

What prompted me to take the personality test

The free online personality test on https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test was recommended by writing coach Jacqueline Myers in her guest post on Janice Hardy’s March 26, 2020 blog, http://blog.janicehardy.com/2020/03/write-happy-4-little-letters-that-will.html.

Quoting from Janice Hardy’s introductory remarks about Jacqueline Myers:  Ms. Myers “coaches writers using a proprietary methodology that helps them overcome their debilitating creative blocks so they can write un-put-down-able books.”

This is very much an over simplification of Ms. Myers’ assessment of an introvert such as myself, but she recommends that writers who are introverts need peace and quiet and uninterrupted writing time. Introverts can’t be rushed when they’re writing. We like plans and outlines.

Thinking about myself, I agree with the uninterrupted part; I easily lose my train of thought if I’m interrupted. However, I usually have music or even the TV playing in the background while I work.

Ms. Myers recommends that an introvert “find a critique partner who understands you and your work. Make sure it’s someone you trust, who will be gentle and honest with you.” I haven’t looked for a critique partner because I have trouble concentrating on the details in someone else’s writing — and I don’t always see the big picture. I would be a terrible critique partner.

After stating her thoughts about many types of writers, Ms. Myers said, “…writers read, study, and listen to writing experts who may or may not be able to help. What we don’t recognize is that we each have our own magical method within us. But instead of trusting and embracing it, we think someone else must have a better system. When we let go of all the complicated and contradictive writing advice out there and tap into our own innate writing process, we can effortlessly write in a way that touches, informs, and entertains our audience.”

I’m still in the phase of reading “how-to” books about writing. I’m constantly learning more about the craft of writing, but I think I have to find my own writing process through trial and error. Sometimes I read conflicting advice but not often.

My conclusion

I will, no doubt, continue to read writing advice written by experts. I will, no doubt, continue to cobble that advice together into future #FixYourNovel blog posts. I will, no doubt, continue to second guess myself and doubt my abilities and talents. When all is said and done, though, I will settle into my unique writing process. Perhaps some day I will trust myself to write the way I want to write and what I want to write.

More about the 16personalities.com personality test

The 16 personalities website goes on to explore “why,” “how,” and “what if?” If you want to learn (or verify) which personality type you are and why you are the way you are, this is a free online test. I am in no way recommending or endorsing the website. In addition to the free test, you can purchase other personality packages on the website. I took the test for fun and that’s as far as I’m going.

Since my last blog post

Since last Monday’s blog post, I’ve accomplished very little. I’ve done some reading and worked on some future blog posts.

I’ve spent more time reading the blogs of other people than I’ve spent reading books. I learn a lot from other bloggers. Like books, many blogs can transport the reader to another world. I follow blogs of artists, poets, photographers, writers, book reviewers, cooks, storytellers, traveloguers, psychologists, pastors, quilters, political commentators, and others who blog about whatever is on their minds. The bloggers I follow live all around the world, and I enjoy the different perspectives each of them offers.

Until my next blog post

Read a good book.

I hope you have productive and creative time. If you’re a writer and you’re struggling with the writing process, perhaps you’re trying to fit a round ball in a square hole. Perhaps you’ve read “how to write” books and articles until you can’t read any more. Perhaps, like me, you just haven’t been able to get your mind off the pandemic long enough to concentrate on finishing that book you started writing a decade ago. Maybe this will be our week to “get our mojo back,” “get back in the groove,” or “get back in ‘the zone.'”

Stay safe and well. Continue to take necessary precautions during this COVID-19 pandemic. If your job is not considered “essential” during this time of staying at home, I hope you find rest. If you have lost your job due to the pandemic, I hope you have adequate food and shelter.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you taken a personality test? Did it jibe with the way you see yourself? Have you taken the test I wrote about today? If so, did you agree with the findings?

If you’ve been in an artistic slump lately but found your way out of it, please share what you think triggered your motivation to get creative again.

Janet

LEAPFROG and The Immoral Majority

Two books I read in March worked hand-in-hand. I hadn’t anticipated that, so it was a pleasant surprise. I mentioned them in passing in last week’s blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/04/06/eight-books-i-read-in-march-2020/.

The two books are The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe and LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

I read Ben Howe’s book first. It addressed something that has dumbfounded me:  How can Christians come down on opposite ends of the spectrum about Donald Trump? How do many evangelicals continue to support him when his speech, Tweets, and actions are in total contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ?

I took copious notes while reading The Immoral Majority and thought I’d write a blog post about it. Then, I read LEAPFROG, by Janet Givens. I was immediately struck by how the two books could work together. This is probably the longest blog post I’ve written. If the topic interests you, I hope you’ll have time to read it.


The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe

How can Christians see Donald Trump so differently?
The Immoral Moral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe

In the introduction to this nonfiction book author Ben Howe relates a story from 2012 when the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain came under attack for its charitable foundation’s support of several organizations the Huffington Post labeled as anti-gay. Mr. Howe and a gay friend set out to make a video to show that Chick-Fil-A was a good company that did not discriminate against anyone due to their sexual orientation.

About the same time, a man in another state went to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant with video camera in hand to prove that Chick-Fil-A was a horrible company. A video he made of an exchange with the employee at the drive-through window went viral. Ben Howe more or less led a campaign to give that man “what he deserved.” The result of the campaign resulted in the man losing his job and having trouble finding employment for years to come.

In telling that story, Mr. Howe concludes: “It’s not really whether the punishment fits the crime; it’s more about the decisions of those who react to the crime and whether they are carrying out justice or simply joining the wrongdoer in being wrong.”

He asks the reader to imagine what happens when you put millions of self-righteous people together. An echo chamber develops.

“This is a book about what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road.” ~ Ben Howe

Feeling under attack, evangelical Christians in the United States had to decide whether to cling unflinchingly to Biblical principles or to act “according to Christ’s example.” As a group, they clung to principles and turned their backs on Christ’s example. The result was the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Mr. Howe theorizes that the shift started with Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s January 2016 endorsement of Trump for US president. Although a few evangelical leaders spoke out against Trump, Falwell held sway over the majority. Just as Jerry Falwell, Sr. had helped launch the “Moral Majority” movement in 1980, his son was instrumental in urging evangelical Christians to support Trump in 2016.

The difference was, in 1980 Christians were encouraged to influence politics, but in 2016 Christians were, in Mr. Howe’s words, “being forcefully changed by politics.” In his campaign, Trump played on people’s fears. He told Christians they were being persecuted by the government and the Internal Revenue Service, and he promised to put an end to it.

People like Dr. Ben Carson maintained that Trump was a chess pawn in God’s hands and we needed faith that God knew what He was doing. Franklin Graham also took the pragmatic approach, saying God had always used imperfect people to work out His plans.

Trump campaigned as the one and only person who could save America. He mocked (and continues to mock) people who follow Christ’s admonition that we should pray for our enemies. By offering such counter-Christian ideas, Trump was able to win the U.S. presidency via the Electoral College, even though he did not win the popular vote.

In his book, Mr. Howe presents a chronology of how the old “Moral Majority” lost their way and set their sights on the political power Trump promised them instead of the power, grace, and eternal life Jesus Christ promised them. They somehow – which still puzzles me – fell for Trump’s showmanship and voted for him by the millions. He was that new shiny object that sounded so appealing to so many.

Mr. Howe says the real shift happened on June 20, 2016 when Trump “held a meeting with a thousand value-centric conservative leaders.” Endorsed at the meeting by such respected Christian leaders as Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, and Dr. James Dobson, Trump was able to silence his evangelical naysayers and capture the hearts and minds of enough Christians to put himself in the White House.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential race, was and is a practicing Methodist. Trump supporters somehow believed that Trump was elected because God is in power; however, the same people believed the world would end if Clinton were elected. I can’t get my head around their belief that the all-powerful God would delight in Trump’s election but that same God would be held powerless if Hillary Clinton were elected.

All this and I’ve only touched on the introduction and first chapter of Mr. Howe’s book. I admit that I just skimmed through the rest of the book.

In subsequent chapters Mr. Howe writes about such topics as how Trump has been compared to King Cyrus of Persia in the 6th century B.C; people who criticized President Trump’s character; the influence of social media in the vitriol in today’s politics; the belief of many Trump supporters that you’re either pro-choice or you’re pro-Trump – there’s no middle ground; political correctness; desire for revenge; racism and the perception of racism; us against them; abortion; gun policy; defense of the indefensible; excusing the inexcusable; separation of church and state; and choosing between immoralities/the lesser of two evils.

On page 161, Mr. Howe states:  “By directly defying their stated desire, ignoring the character of Donald Trump, and creating a ‘Christian’ culture that has become divisively self-interested and bitterly self-righteous, these leaders have taught their flocks to value the things of the world, rather than the things of Christ.”

And on page 205:  “There simply is no pulling of a lever in a voting booth that will deny God His purpose when He pursues it, nor is there any pulling of the lever that will earn His allegiance to your ‘side.’”

Mr. Howe concludes that God will accomplish His plan regardless of who the U.S. president is. I agree.

“If you wish to be all that Donald Trump and his ilk are not, then the greatest service you could do for the world is to love them despite themselves. Love doesn’t require agreement. It doesn’t require compromise. It doesn’t require surrender or shedding of values. It only and ever required the simple truth that we are stuck together. And if things are going to get better, you cannot wait for others to do it first.” ~ Ben Howe

In the current political climate in the United States, the loudest voices to the “far right” seem to think, “If you don’t agree with me politically, you have no right to live.” This must stop!


LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

How we can learn to agreeably disagree.
LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

 “If it is our desire to live in a civil society, we must be willing to engage in a dialogue with those with whom we disagree.” ~ Janet Givens, M.A.

Ms. Givens titled her book LEAPFROG — an acronym of four verbs, Listen, Empathize, Assess, and Paraphrase that help us listen, while the nouns Facts, Respect, Observation, and Gratitude “guide us as we present our ideas in a way that will increase the likelihood that we will also be heard.”

Ms. Givens dedicated a chapter to each of the four verbs and four nouns. In a nutshell, here are snippets from the chapters about Assess, Facts, and Respect:

Assess – Ms. Given wrote, “Assess, as I’m using it here, simply means ‘pause and think’ while you ask yourself, “Is this a conversation I am able to have at this time?’ This is more important than you realize.” Are you and the other party coming to the conversation with curiosity and compassion?

Facts – Ms. Givens wrote, “… since understanding is our goal, we must ignore facts. For now. They have their place in any conversation, of course, but first, receptivity, a willingness to hear them, must exist. On both sides.” She gives “a question to ponder before moving on” at the end of each chapter. At the end of the chapter about facts she wrote: “Think back to your last political conversation. Or, your last Town Hall meeting. Or, your last family feast that ended badly. What went wrong?”

Respect – I love Ms. Givens’ chapter about respect. She wrote, “When we forget our common humanity, we create a chasm between us that is hard to bridge. Respect serves as a bridge to cross that chasm,” while “blame lets us abdicate responsibility for our discomfort by putting it on the other.” We’re all biased, whether we realize it or not.

In conclusion, Ms. Givens wrote about human beings’ need for social interaction. She calls difference “the source of all creativity. Indeed, think of difference as the beginning of all learning, Then, consider a disagreement as a difference of opinion that creates an enlightening and stimulating mystery, one which can be solved, together.”

She then lists her concerns about where our society is heading if we continue to be at such odds politically like we have not been since the American Civil War.

Ms. Givens asks many questions for our consideration throughout the book and at the end of her book. I think most people would benefit from reading LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era. I’ve just hit a few high points in my blog post. For more information about Ms. Givens’ work or to contact her, go to https://janetgivens.com/.


How the two books helped me

I approached The Immoral Moral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe with the following mindset: I’m a Christian, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I have been guilty of being critical of Christians who continue to support Donald Trump. I wanted the book to explain their rationale to me. I’m still trying to understand it.

While I was still contemplating the theories, Mr. Howe gave in his book, I read LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A., and it really opened my eyes and made me evaluate my opinions.

It helped me see that I tend to listen to the cable news channels I agree with. When I read or listen to “the other side” I approach them with a biased ear and eye. Ms. Givens’ book helped me acknowledge my biases. Overcoming those biases is a work in progress.

If you disagree with my politics, that is your right. I respect your right to disagree; I just don’t understand it. As an American and a Presbyterian I will defend your right to believe what you believe and vote as you feel led to vote. That doesn’t mean I understand how you got there. When the Trump presidency is over, I hope we, as Americans, will once again be able to agreeably disagree.

In the current political climate in the United States, the loudest voices to the “far right” seem to think, “If you don’t agree with me politically, you have no right to live.” This must stop!

I still haven’t had that difficult conversation with anyone whose political views are far from mine, but I will read and re-read Ms. Givens’ book so I’ll be better-equipped to Listen, Empathize, Assess, and Paraphrase when that opportunity presents itself. I’ll have that conversation someday, when the other person and I are ready to approach it with Facts, Respect, Observation, and Gratitude.


Since my last blog post

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my next appointment with my orthopedic doctor has been rescheduled for a week later, which means I’ll have 13 weeks without putting any weight on my right leg instead of 12. I’m disappointed but that’s a small price for me to pay.

Until my next blog post

Please rest your eyes. If you read this lengthy blog post of mine today, you need to rest your eyes.

I hope you have a good book to read.

I hope you have some creative time.

I hope you stay safe and well. It has been a year like most of us have never seen before and it will, no doubt, continue to be so. I hope you will find something positive to do as we all journey through this pandemic.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read either of these two books? How did they affect you? Have you acknowledged your biases? Have you had that difficult conversation with someone? How did it go? Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your thinking about politics and your fellow citizens whose views are very different from yours?

Janet

#YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 5 of 5

Today’s blog post wraps up my recent tale of woe. We pick up the story when the nurse was checking on the status of my shower chair/portable toilet and the woman at the other end of the phone call responds, “I’m on it.”

In case you missed Part 4 yesterday, here’s a link to it: #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 4 of 5. ­­­­

Home at last

I’m finally presented with my “throne” and Marie and I leave the hospital. We stop on the way home for some lunch at a fast-food restaurant’s drive-through window since we are now getting very hungry. (My breakfast had been interrupted no less than eight times by various hospital personnel, so I don’t remember what or when I ate it.)

My sister, Marie, is a very resourceful person. Not able to find a bridge threshold ramp that will work with our particular threshold, she goes to the basement and comes back with two wooden planks, a piece of 2-inch wide crown molding, and a piece of slick-backed insulation. She’s a genius!

Her plan works great! When I need to go for a follow-up appointment with my doctor, we won’t have to call the fire department to carry me out of the house! We are proud of ourselves, but mainly I’m proud of Marie. She figured this out!

An outing to see the physician’s assistant

I make an appointment to follow up with my primary care physician. When I explain to the lab technician how I broke my leg, she says, “You’re kidding, aren’t you? How did it really happen?” After I assure her that I’ve told her the real story, she says, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

I agree. I write some fiction, but I lack the imagination to make up the story you’ve read since Monday.

What next?

The other day I texted my friend, Kay, about the latest part of my tale of woe. Kay texted back, “LOL! What’s next?”

Less than an hour later, Marie is pushing me down the hall in my rollator. Suddenly, it becomes difficult to push. I can’t believe it when Marie says, “You have a flat tire!”

Who knew a rollator could have a flat tire?

I texted Kay. She responded, “I’ve used a rollator for years, but I’ve never had a blowout!”

My rollator is old. Marie bought it at a yard sale. It’s so old, replacement tires are not made for it. I could order one on E-Bay that might work, but for an additional $50.00 I could purchase a new rollator.

Since I won’t need the rollator forever, and I have a very resourceful sister, I don’t need to buy a new one. Marie repaired the tire with duct tape! It brought back memories of our father having tires recapped back in the day before the invention of radial tires.

Where things stand today

I can get in and out of the house in my rollator with Marie’s assistance. Of course, now we’re under a “Stay at Home” order in my county due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I can’t put any weight on my right foot for another three-and-a-half weeks, and it remains to be seen what happens to the physical therapy I’ll need in the coming months. I can’t imagine any physical therapists will be seeing patients in the coming months.

I expect to be on a blood thinner for the next three months, since the pulmonary embolism was the result of an accident and not due to an underlying medical condition. My lung continues to hurt if I lie down flat, so I’m sleeping nearly sitting up. I still run a fever most evenings. I’m trying to learn patience.

The phone still rings and it frustrates me when the caller ID box says, “SPAM” or “Fraudulent Caller” and I wonder why the phone company isn’t filtering such calls.

One caller left a voicemail. She claimed her name was “Sunshine” and that she knew I was an author. She said she represents “a hybrid company that also invests in French National Book Rights.” She asked that I call her at 302-770-____, Ext. 87, but I didn’t. I’m only an author because I wrote a vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and I doubt that anyone wants to translate it into French.

By the way, the burial insurance agent called again yesterday. That recorded caller doesn’t give up easily.

Until my next blog post

Take care of yourself. Stay home, if you possibly can. Listen to the medical experts and other scientists.

Write a note of caring and thanks to someone you know – maybe to the pharmacist, the nurse at your doctor’s office, or the cashier at the grocery store.

Be resourseful! Be like Marie!

Today concludes my tale of woe since fracturing my leg on January 27.. At least, I hope the “woe” part of the tale is over. On Monday I plan to resume my usual weekly blog post.

Janet

A thank-you note
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

#YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 4 of 5

Part 4 of this week’s blog series, #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp, picks up after the construction of our handicap ramp. What happens next has nothing to do with the ramp; that’s just where I ended Part 3 yesterday.

In case you missed Part 3, here’s a link to it: ­­­­#YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 3 of 5.

I start noticing a slight pain under my left shoulder blade. I figure it comes from using muscles I haven’t been using until I started having to hop on my left foot and get around with a walker. I quickly develop a new appreciation and awe for people who are permanently physically handicapped.

A few days later

I wake up on February 26 with stabbing pains throughout my left rib cage and in my back – under that shoulder blade. I can’t get comfortable. It hurts to breathe. It really hurts to take a deep breath. Marie and I decide this time I need an ambulance.

There’s a whole other story regarding the ambulance, but I’ll spare you the details. It’s my first ride in an ambulance as a patient.

Keep in mind that it’s the middle of flu season and there’s talk that COVID-19 is coming to America. The waiting room at the emergency room is overflowing with sick people. Some of them are very sick. I try to remain calm, not touch anything, and not take a deep breath.

Diagnosis:  Pulmonary Embolism

It’s finally my turn to be seen. I’m sent for a lung x-ray. I’m told I might have pneumonia in my left lung, but a CT scan is needed for a diagnosis.

The diagnosis is pretty quickly made. I have a blood clot in my left lung! A blood thinner is injected into my stomach and I’m monitored. The hospital is full. The hospitalist says I might have to spend the night in the ER.

Much to my surprise, a room becomes available and I’m admitted for observation.

Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

The next day I start taking a blood thinner in pill form, and will continue to for three or four months.

No, I can’t do that

Physical and occupational therapists come to my room to assess my mobility capabilities. I cannot be discharged before they see me. Hospital rules. We have a ramp at our house now. The only remaining barrier is the threshold in the doorway from the porch into the house. I never should have mentioned it.

One of the therapists demonstrates how I should be able to hop up steps and hop backwards over our door’s threshold. Since the industrial strength leg brace weighs a ton (that’s the only exaggeration in my story) and I’m not a healthy 67-year-old – I have my doubts that I can hop up steps or over the threshold forwards – much less backwards. I can barely get my left foot an inch off the floor when I hop.

When I put all my weight on the handles of my walker in order to hop, it feels like electricity is running through my hands. I’m not having fun with my walker if on a flat surface while going forward. I decline the therapist’s offer to take me to “the gym” where I can learn how to hop up stairs on one foot. (Call me a chicken if you so desire.)

Her next suggestion was that I could sit down on the floor and scoot myself backwards up steps or over the threshold. When I inquired of her how I might get up from the floor, she said I should just scoot over to a chair and pull myself up. She sat on the floor of my hospital room (not to worry… it had been mopped that morning — GAG!) scooted over to a chair and pulled herself up to a standing position.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Before I could protest, the other therapist in the room pointed out that with a broken leg it was going to be impossible for me to pull myself up using a chair. Neither of them had explained how I was supposed to sit on the floor in the first place. The only way I can see myself sitting on the floor is if I fall backwards while using my walker. That seems a little drastic to me, just so I can scoot over an exterior door threshold.

Not to be defeated, the first therapist said I needed to go home with a shower chair that doubles as a bedside toilet. Not wanting to come across as totally uncooperative, I decided to accept. The chair is ordered. My lunch is cancelled because I’m being released at 10:30 a.m. Trust me, it’s already been a long day.

Marie stops shopping for a threshold bridge ramp and comes to pick me up at 10:30 even though we know this probably isn’t happening. Lunchtime comes and goes. 10:30 release turns into 2:00 p.m. release because the shower chair has to be delivered to the hospital and I, of course, can’t go home without it.

An hour or so before the shower chair is brought to my room, the nurse whips out her cell phone, calls someone else in the building and asks, “What’s the status of Ms. Morrison’s shower chair/portable toilet?” The response on the other end of the line was, “I’m on it.”

Let that settle in for a minute. Marie, the nurse, and I all simultaneously realize how ironic, “I’m on it” sounds and we all have a good laugh.

To be continued . . .

Since my last blog post

Sadly, the first two deaths attributed to coronavirus-19 in North Carolina, have been reported in Cabarrus County.

You’ll be glad to know that we’ve had no calamities at our house in the last 24 hours.

I’ve been listening to The Litigators, by John Grisham and almost finished listening to Long Road to Mercy, by David Baldacci.       

I’ve worked on a historical short story. If I’m ever to have a collection of short stories to publish, I need to start spending more time writing and less time thinking about writing.

Until my next blog post

Take care of yourself and those important people in your life. Seek out someone who might be alone and scared. Contact them in a safe way. Listen to their concerns and try to reassure them. We’re all in this together.

Tune in tomorrow for #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 5 of 5.

Janet

#YouCan'tMakeThisStuffUp Part 3 of 5

In case you missed #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 2, here’s a link to it: https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/03/24/youcantmakethisstuffup-part-2-of-5/.

Something I forgot to include in Part 2 was when the triage nurse asked me, “Do you feel safe in your home?” (this being right after my sister has crashed into me in our kitchen and fractured my tibial plateau) and I responded, “I did until a few minutes ago!”

I know that was a very serious question, and I’m glad ER triage nurses are required to ask it, but I just couldn’t resist having a little fun with it.

Today we pick up my tale of woe just as our friend, Carol, arrives after 1:30 a.m. with a key to our house.

We thought we’d hear from you again tonight

Once she’s in the house, Marie calls the fire department and requests lift assistance. The same crew is still on duty. One of the firemen says, “We thought we’d hear from you again tonight.”

The firemen marvel that I have a fractured leg. They carry me up the porch steps and into the house in the handy-dandy rollator.

Marie and I eat I don’t remember what, but it tasted good, and we went to bed. I’m armed with a bell to ring if I need her during the night – and my cell phone so I can call her if she doesn’t hear the bell in her bedroom.

Do you need burial insurance?

The next morning we start getting daily robocalls offering us burial insurance. I don’t know if the hospital gave them my phone number or if someone told them the next day was my birthday. Either way, I wasn’t in the mood for that. In fact, the calls continue. I’m still not in the mood.

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday!
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The next day was my birthday. Marie and I usually take each other out for dinner on our birthdays. Like many such celebrations in 2020, that celebratory meal will have to be postponed for a few months or longer.

We need a handicap ramp

When I had my follow-up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, I learned that my fracture “isn’t quite bad enough to require surgery due to your age.” He could have talked all day without referring to my age! I’m fitted with an industrial strength thigh-to-ankle leg brace that has big dials on either side of my knee and four Velcro straps that have a tendency to stick to everything except where I need them. I’m told not to put any weight on my leg for a total of 12 weeks from the date of the accident.

In light of what we learned at the orthopedist’s office, we go home and start looking for someone to build a handicap ramp at our porch. A neighbor up the road has a landscaping business. He makes time in his busy schedule to construct and install a permanent treated-wood handicap ramp for us, finishing the job literally in the red mud while sleet was falling. (I don’t know if Billy wants to go into the ramp-building business or not but, if you live in the Charlotte area and need some landscaping done or a retaining wall built – or possibly, a handicap ramp – I can vouch for Reedy Creek Lawn and Landscape in Harrisburg, NC.)

To be continue . . .

Since my last blog post (24 hours ago)

I was scheduled for knee x-rays yesterday. I wasn’t too keen on going into a doctor’s office during this coronavirus-19 pandemic, but the nurse assured me all necessary precautions were being taken.

My sister and I continued our “Lucy and Ethel” ways. While I brushed my teeth, I thought about my leg brace. I didn’t think about it again until I was sitting in the passenger seat of my 1991 pick-up truck (because it’s easier to get in and out of than Marie’s car.) She had to go back in the house to retrieve my brace. Do you know how difficult it is to put on a full-leg brace while sitting sideways in a pick-up truck? If not, I can tell you on a need-to-know basis.

When we arrived at the orthopedic doctor’s office, I called the nurse from the truck. I hopped to the door with my walker and the nurse met me there. She grabbed a wheelchair and whisked me through the deserted waiting room and straight to x-ray.

Do you know how difficult it is to stand on one foot and hold your own lead x-ray apron long enough to have two x-rays made? I can tell you, if you really want to know.

The x-rays showed that my tibial plateau fracture is healing just fine. Calcium is starting to fill in the fracture, which is a good thing. Everything looked great! Just four more weeks of not putting any weight on my right leg. I can do this! I don’t have to leave the house again until my next doctor’s appointment in April.

The day’s fun wasn’t over yet, though. At 5:00 p.m. I went on my tablet to see and hear my pastor’s devotional on Facebook Live. Facebook Live is a new thing for me. A very new thing for me.

I learned something today at 5:00 p.m. If you go to the church’s Facebook Live broadcast and hit a red button (it either said, “Video” or “Live” or something else)… anyway… I hit the red button and instead of tuning into Neal’s devotional, I recorded an 11-second video that broadcast live on my Facebook page. Fortunately, most of the 11 seconds only showed the inside cover of my tablet. That flash at the end was my lap covered by a blanket. The moral of the story is:  Never hit the red button. (My apologies to Staples and their Easy Button.)

Until my next blog post

Take care of yourself and those you care about. Check on your neighbors and people who live alone. Support local small businesses like Reedy Creek Lawn and Landscape as you can.

Tune in tomorrow for #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 4 of 5.

Janet

#YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 1 of 5

In these uncertain days of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was difficult for me to settle on a topic for today’s blog post. If you’re like me, you’re having trouble concentrating on your task at hand. 

I’m working on several future blog posts about the craft of writing and a number of fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read this month, and I will save those for the upcoming weeks.

My blog post today (and Parts 2-5 which will follow tomorrow through Friday of this week) will test your ability to trust me. It is a true story. Since the end of January, I’ve mentioned in passing that I have a fractured tibial plateau. It was the result of a freak accident.

Since the end of February, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I also have a pulmonary embolism. A fractured leg and the pulmonary embolism which followed it are not on face value anything to laugh about; however, I choose to look for the humor in everyday situations.

We can all use a chuckle during these difficult times, so please accept my series this week in the spirit in which it is intended.


Setting the stage

My sister, Marie, and I had been out and about on January 27. We were on a tight schedule to eat supper and get to book club.

food prep image
Photo by Piotr Miazga on Unsplash

Why isn’t Janet helping me up?

I’m heating soup on the stove. Marie is taking a dish out of the microwave oven. Her knee buckles. She manages to put the hot dish on the kitchen island before sprawling across the floor. What she didn’t know was that as she sailed across the kitchen she slams into the side of my right knee.

Marie is lying on the floor with her back to me because she has the presence of mind to turn herself in a way that she wouldn’t land on her left knee replacement. She can’t see me, but I’m clinging to the kitchen counter in great pain. I’m saying “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!” because I realize I cannot put any weight on my right foot. Marie is still on the floor with her back to me thinking I’m saying, “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!…” because I’m worried about her. (I was worried about her, but more worried about myself at that moment.) She’s wondering why I’m not helping her up!

Marie rolls over and sees that I’m hurt. I tell her I can’t put any weight on my right leg. I continue to cling to the kitchen counter as Marie struggles to get up. She brings me a chair and we pretty quickly agree that I need to go to the emergency room at the hospital three miles from our home. I try to walk to the door on crutches, but I soon feel faint and more or less collapse into a chair.

We decide we need some professional help, so Marie dials 9-1-1.

To be continued. . .


Until my next blog post

I hope you have escaped and continue to escape being infected with COVID-19. I hope you are physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially secure as we all journey through the most uncertain public health time of most of our lifetimes.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m fortunate to be able to take advantage of some electronic audible books through the public library which closed its doors to the public on March 16 “until further notice.” I’m listening to The Ligitators, by John Grisham and Long Road to Mercy, by David Baldacci — but not at the same time. I just like to have more than one book going all the time.

We’re all learning as we go, and I’m glad I’m retired and not in a major decision-making position. Marie and I make a good team. I’m in the enviable position of living with my sister. She just happens to also be my best friend. She’s taking great care of me. Together, we’ll get through this crisis.

I hope you also have someone to depend on through thick and thin.

If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you’re able to create during this time. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate most days. If you’re in that same boat, don’t beat yourself up over it. This is not the time to be demanding of yourself or others.

My thanks go out to those in the healthcare profession. Perhaps by the time we come to the end of this pandemic we’ll realize as a society that doctors and nurses are more valuable than – and should be paid more than athletes.

Take care of yourself. Stay safe, and try to stay well. Let the people in your life know how important they are to you. Keep in touch socially via phone, text, Skype, email, and however you safely can to minimize the isolation we all feel during this pandemic.

Tune in tomorrow for #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp” Part 2.

And, if you are a fan of humor from everyday life, I recommend the offerings by my fellow-North Carolinian Jeanne Swanner Robertson. Her website is https://jeannerobertson.com/.

Janet