The Power of HappyDayMoments

My friend Jama posts a #HappyDayMoment every day to her Facebook page.  She’s done so for over 2300 days to date.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s one of the most positive, up-beat people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  This year I knew I wanted to be more positive.  I wanted to find the silver lining more and complain less.  On January 1st, I started posting a HappyDayMoment each day to my Facebook.  Some days I struggled to find something to share that I felt good about.  Some days I forgot until after I was in bed and had to grab my phone to get one posted.  A few days I forgot until the next morning and wound up posting a belated one (I’ve remedied this by putting an alarm on my phone to remind me).  But I’ve kept going – I’m into the 150s now – and I feel like I’m starting to feel a change in myself.

Back on May 7th (only a month ago but it feels so much longer than that) I ran the Indy Mini.  I signed up because it was a bucket-list sort of race, the kind of experience that would be one-of-a-kind.  I was excited and, by the time the start actually came, more than a little nervous.  There were a lot of things that did not go well with the race – I got sick a few days before and didn’t sleep much the night before due to congestion, I got a little freaked out by the size of the crowd (I knew it was the world’s largest half-marathon but I wasn’t prepared for what it would feel like to be in that large of a field), I wasn’t as well trained as I wanted to be, and my time really sucked.  But, in spite of that, I came away feeling mostly good about the race.  I found myself all along the course noting things and thinking “I love that – I want to remember that!”  I was actively looking for the positives, determined not to forget them, and making the effort to not let the negative dominate my memories.  At the end of the day, I posted a list of the awesome, great, and not-so-awesome things from the race to my Facebook and I’m happy to say there were more in the first two categories than in the third.  The race itself may not have gone the way I wanted, but the overall experience was valuable not just for the things in my awesome list but for the way I was able to change my perspective and see more of the positives.

Me and Meb
One of the awesome: I got to meet Meb Keflezighi at the expo and get his autograph! He ran the race, starting last so he could run with everyone!

I am working hard now to use this skill again.  Over Memorial Day weekend my older dog, Maggie, started having trouble with her back legs.  Trips to an emergency vet clinic followed by a longer road-trip to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Purdue University ensued.  Maggie’s been diagnosed with IVDD.  There’s a swelling in one of the discs in her spine and it was delaying nerve signals reaching her back legs.  Her back feet will “knuckle” and sometimes one back leg will collapse.  She looks like she’s stumbling around drunk. If the swelling continues she could wind up with nerve damage and a ruptured disc, which would require surgery.  The treatment at this time is anti-inflammatory and pain meds for two weeks and strict crate rest for the next 6-8 weeks.  Strict rest means she is in the crate 24-7, except for when she’s being carried out to the yard to do her business (which is done while she’s on a 6 foot leash to keep her from walking too much or dashing after something).  Making matters more complicated is the fact that Maggie is high-strung and suffers from anxiety.  We are very concerned about how we can manage to keep her calm in the crate for that long.  Fortunately the neurologist at Purdue was able to consult with the behaviorist who’s seen Maggie before and together work on a medical plan to help us and so far she’s doing well with being confined.

Maggie, giving me the look while I eat my dinner.

I’d originally scheduled to take the week of Memorial Day off work to do some yard work with my husband (we always take that week off and have what we call Mulchapalooza).  We cancelled our mulch order and, while hubs stayed home with Maggie, I went back to work.  I applied for Personal Leave and did triage on my job duties.  I did some crash training on those duties which would have to be handled while I was on leave, taking  care of Maggie.  Now I have seven weeks of being home with my dogs, trying to make sure Maggie stays calm and heals while trying not to stress out about having no income from my job while still having all of our bills to pay.

My husband got a furniture mover so Maggie’s crate is on wheels, making it easier to move about the house.


I’m going back to what I did in the Mini and trying to see the positive in the next seven weeks.  I get to be a stay-at-home dog momma.  My introvert-half will be happy for the time alone.  If I can only convince myself to stop worrying about it, I don’t have the stress of my job hanging over me.  I should have time to do more writing, and to help more with Midwest Writers Workshop.  We won’t be eating out but I do enjoy cooking – it will be fun to try some new recipes.  I’ve always wanted to keep my house cleaner but never felt I had the time – now I will.  Having little financial wiggle room will force my husband and I to do a better job sticking to a budget.  It only takes 30 days to build a new habit, and we have the next 7 weeks to create some new ones which will serve us well even after I return to work.  Most important of all, I am doing what Maggie needs and if all goes well, she will make a complete recovery without requiring surgery.  These are the things I need to focus on over the next seven weeks.

The princess, snoozing.  She’s worth every bit of stress and struggle we may have!

Book Review: The Great Detective

The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, by Zach Dundas
5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

“If you love Sherlock Holmes, the rabbit hole beckons, always.” – p238

Deerstalker 1
One of the two deerstalkers that my mother made for me, creating her own pattern.  I have been known to wear this.  In public.

This book is close to pulling me back into that rabbit hole. I was an avid Sherlockian when I entered college, thanks to a friend I made my senior year of high school. I loved to play “the Great Game” (Holmes and Watson were real, Conan Doyle was just a literary agent, and all these stories really happened). I’d hole up on the third floor of the University library with a copy of Baker Street Byways or The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and read them between classes.  I discovered I could get copies of articles from the Baker Street Journal via inter-library loan and amassed quite a collection of them (at one point they had to cut me off because if I’d received any more articles that calendar year, I’d be violating copyright law; we worked around this by requesting the entire bound journal so I could make my own copies). Reading this book brought all that fun back for me – pouring over footnotes in Baring-Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, driving off to Indianapolis and a Sherlock Holmes Symposium with that friend from high school, and making my own attempts at pastiche.

The Tome 2
We called this “the tome.”  One of my two copies (yes, I have two copies of the same book) is on display in my house.

The Great Game is only one part of the phenomenon that is Sherlock Holmes, and Dundas tries to explore them all. We begin with the beginning – Arthur Conan Doyle. Dundas traces his early life, at least so far as it might have influenced Holmes’s creation (this isn’t a biography of ACD). We get more details as they coincide with the publication of the various novels and stories in the Canon, and Dundas draws connections between real-world events surrounding Conan Doyle and the stories he wrote. When you play the game, you mostly ignore Conan Doyle. He’s just the literary agent, after all. But Dundas looks at Conan Doyle the story-teller, and he gave me a new appreciation for ACD. Conan Doyle was a master short-story writer. He had the formula down pat. And yet, his writings aren’t entirely formulaic. Holmes and Watson were useful characters who found themselves in a variety of stories. Action-adventure, spy thrillers, Gothic horror, and even something like a Western (as Dundas puts it, “the Sherlock Holmes Canon is a Whole Earth Catalog of storytelling strategies.”). Throughout it all, Conan Doyle creates a portrait of a lasting friendship. There cannot be a Holmes without Watson. Reading about Conan Doyle and the chronology of his writing of the Holmes stories made me realize I have never read them in publication order. My text has always been Baring-Gould’s text, which puts them in “chronological order,” or at least his version of it (if you put 5 Sherlockians together and asked them to put the stories in chronological order, you will get 5 different orders).

Persian slipper
I received a Persian slipper from my friend as a high school graduation present. Today it keeps company with a bust of Abraham Lincoln and an owl on my fireplace mantel.  To date it still does not hold any tobacco.

The book delves in to the various productions of Holmes, from the parodies published in newspapers contemporary with the stories coming out in The Strand to Gillette’s play and on-ward, lingering with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, skimming over Jeremy Brett (more really could be said about Brett’s performance and Granada’s production), and finally moving to Sherlock and Elementary. He takes a stab at discussing fanfiction (and treats it pretty fairly) and spends a satisfying amount of time giving the history of the Baker Street Irregulars and the writings about the writings.

Sherlockian bookcase
My Sherlockian bookcase, which includes different editions of the stories as well as some neo-Sherlock.  Sayers and Stout both played “the Great Game” so it’s fitting they are there.  Allingham sort of snuck in but I haven’t the heart to banish her.

Dundas’s stated purpose was to answer some questions about Sherlock Holmes and the way he has continued for 130 some years in various forms. I found myself nodding along to his conclusions. There is Holmes himself, this man we know so much and so little about. Devotees can tell you many characteristics of the Great Detective, and yet his past remains a mystery. Who was he before he took on those first investigations (“The Gloria Scott” and “The Musgrave Ritual”)? What was his family life like? Where did he grow up? Where did he go to University? In the stories we learn very little beyond the fact that he has an older, even smarter, brother (Mycroft). Then there is Watson, the heart and soul of the business. Holmes is the genius detective, intriguing to be sure, but it is Watson that the reader identifies with. He is necessary to make the whole thing work (and if you doubt that, just look at the two stories ACD did with Holmes as narrator, and how they don’t work). At times Holmes is a calculating machine, but Watson remains reliably human. The Canon is a lasting portrait of their friendship. And finally, there is the sense that when we read Conan Doyle’s stories, we are getting a glimpse of a fully fleshed out world. I’ve likened it to peeking through a keyhole. You know there’s more to the room, things out of your line of sight – you can’t see them but you know they’re there. This sense of these stories being part of a larger world is intriguing (and gives rise to the Great Game, to pastiche, and opens the door for a multitude of interpretations of the characters). As Dundas puts it, “Conan Doyle didn’t mean to, but he salted his Sherlockian work with storytelling prompts. Watson repeatedly whispers ‘Go’ into the imaginative reader’s ear. And so, from almost the very beginning, other people have felt compelled to make up their own Sherlock Holmes stories.” People have done that in many ways, from finding “problems” in the original stories to analyze to writing pastiche to creating fanfiction to writing plays, radio dramas, movies, and tv shows based on the characters. If you love these characters, you can’t resist. You slip into that rabbit hole and off you go. It’s great fun, even if it would drive Arthur Conan Doyle mad. That fun is beckoning to me once more, but before I go back to the game, I think I’ll read the stories over in publication order.

Thunder and Lightening!

It’s thundering outside my office right now and I’m fighting the urge to run about the office unplugging all the computers.  I worked at a group of radio stations for four years and whenever there was a thunderstorm, any computer not directly related to broadcasting was turned off and unplugged.  Our main station was weird in that the studio and office building sat right below the tower (most stations do not put the two together because the transmitter generates radiation).  A big radio tower broadcasting a 50,000 watt signal is the ultimate lightning rod, and since our building was connected to it, all our stuff could easily get toasted.  Funnily enough, it was actually the defunct tv station tower which sat in front of our building which got hit during my time working there, but the lightning did arc across our building and take out the board in our FM studio (and the dj working there got a bit singed).  And for those of you who believe the old lightning never strikes twice adage, I’m sorry to say you are wrong.  I watched lightning hit that tower and arc over in the same way two times in five minutes.  In between a client called wanting us to play her spot for her.  I told her, “Ma’am, we’re being hit by lightning right now. We’ll have to call you back later.”  Of course, then we started getting flooded with the do-you-know-you’re-off-the-air phone calls.  A little tip – if a station is off the air, EVERYONE working there knows about it.  The traffic people (what I did) are looking at the paper logs to see how many spots they’re going to have to reschedule.  The sales people are trying to figure out if their clients are the ones off the air.  The on-air people are on the phone with the engineer trying to get it fixed.  Silence alarms are going off.  EVERYONE knows they’re off the air and the last thing they need is a bunch of yahoos calling to tell them that!  🙂

Running about unplugging things didn’t feel that strange to me when I started at the stations, because I grew up in cable tv’s early days.  It didn’t come down the county road I lived on because there was a railroad track to cross and the cable company didn’t want to do that.  We had a big tv antennae on our house and when there was a thunderstorm coming, we ran around unhooking all the tvs from it.  I don’t recall that antennae ever getting hit when I lived there, but I do remember a neighbor’s tree getting hit.  It was the loudest boom I’d ever heard (I was 8 or 9 and hadn’t stood by a canon at a Civil War reenactment yet).

My mother-in-law was terrified of thunderstorms and would insist on the whole family sleeping in their family room, which was half underground (they had a split-level house).  My parents never seemed to worry about them much.  I remember my father telling me that he worried more about blizzards than thunderstorms.  Not surprisingly, my husband tends to be more nervous about storms than I am.  Part of me kind of enjoys them.  There’s an energy to them and if I’m in my house, I feel pretty safe.  Unfortunately, one of our dogs is absolutely terrified of them.  I expect when I get home later this afternoon I will find that she’s tried to crawl into one of the kitchen cupboards, or chew her way through the baby-gate I put across the hall to keep her out of the bedrooms while we’re at work.  Poor baby.

What about you?  Do you like storms, or do they make you nervous?  Do you have any storm prep rituals you go through?

Getting Back to Sanity

I knew I loved running and that it was important, but I had no idea how much of an anchor it formed for me.  Since I got the news about the stress fracture I’ve felt so off-kilter.  Everything has suffered.  I basically gave up on my manuscript for Camp NaNoWriMo, didn’t do much reading, and I’ve felt discombobulated and moody.  I kept getting emails inviting me to register for races and they felt like taunts.  Reading about Boston was torture.  When I was training for the Indy Mini, I started each week with a list of to-dos for each day, sorting out what would fit in around my running plan.  That got dropped when the running got dropped and I think that’s a big part of why I felt so lost.

I got a call last Tuesday telling me that my appointment with the surgeon was being cancelled and instead I would follow up with the regular orthopedic doctor I originally saw.  I spent the past 7 days trying to figure out what that meant.  Surgery was out because it wouldn’t work?  I didn’t need surgery to get better after all?  They were going to tell me to just give up on running?  What did it mean?!  It was not a good week. Patience is a virtue that I have not acquired.

The appointment was today and, despite all my fears, the news was good.  Surgery is out because the bone does not show swelling, which suggests that it has adapted to the stress it was under.  I can return to running next week.  I’m supposed to start slow – do a mile and see how I feel – and then ease back in, upping my mileage by 10-20% each week.  If I have any trouble, I should call the doctor.  I am clear, so long as problems don’t develop, to do the 4-miler I’m registered for in July and work back up so I can train for the mini-marathon in September.  As I ease back in, I will use the bicycle my super-supportive husband got for me for cross-training.

To say I am relieved would be an understatement.  I feel like I”m getting my life back.  Running truly is my anchor.  It’s so good to have it back!

Getting to Know Me

I saw this list of questions on Kathy Palm’s blog and though I’m not officially part of the blog-hop, I like the questions and thought it would be fun to answer them.  So here we go!

1.  What’s your least favorite book?

This is a tough one, because I am inclined favorably toward books.  It takes a lot for me to really dislike one.  But I’d have to say the book I least enjoyed reading from my school days was Crime and Punishment.  I think it was a bit over my head at the time, and it’s Russian and thus generally depressing.  Honorable mentions would go to Agatha Christie’s works, because I find her characters two-dimensional and her “cheats” of having the detective be the killer or not share all of his knowledge even when we’re supposed to be in his head really honk me off.

2.  What’s your favorite book from childhood?

Again, it’s hard to pick just one.  So here are a few that really stand out to me (as in, I can’t think of my childhood without also thinking of these books):

the original Nancy Drew mysteries – this was the first series I binge read.  I remember getting these from my school library and reading them at lunchtime (yeah, I was that kid).  I loved Nancy.  She had her own car and got to go in secret passages and overcome dangers and solve mysteries.  She had a supportive dad and a really nice housekeeper/mother figure, cool best friends and even a boyfriend.  She was awesome.  I wanted to be her.

The Hideaway – two kids run away from home and wind up in a cabin in the woods, taking care of themselves for the summer with no grown-ups, and they do it quite well.  I read and re-read this one.  I loved it.

The Anne of Green Gables series.  How could you not love Anne with an “e”, Gilbert, and all of their children (we will not talk about the last book because the death of a certain character still makes me tear up).

3.  What author(s) inspired you to become a writer?

Strangely, this is the most difficult question to answer.  I don’t know that any one author inspired me to write.  As far back as I can remember I was telling stories.  When I was a kid all my stuffed animals had personalities and my brother and I created elaborate dramas for them.  I think that comes more from my mother than from any author – she is the one who tells the family stories.  She also read to me a lot.  Then, in elementary school we did Young Author’s Conference one year and I got to write my own story.  That’s what really made the connection of story-telling leading to book creation for me, and it’s been something I wanted to do ever since.

4.  How do you feel about ebooks?

I don’t see the love of e-books being something exclusive from the love of books and reading.  We’ve turned our family room into the library in my house and it is full of books.  Between my husband and I there are also multiple Kindles in use in our house and I love them as well.   I can’t understand people who want to bash on e-readers any more than I could understand someone who’d want to bash on books.  What matters is that people read, not what platform they choose to use (and if it takes a gadget to get a kid turned on to the joy of reading, then use the gadget!).

5.  Are you a compulsive reader or do you take your time getting through a story?

I am a compulsive reader.  There are certainly books that I wish would never end, but my compulsive need to know what happens next will override any thoughts of lingering.

6.  Which book(s) have you re-read the most?

The original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout, and Harry Potter.  There is something so comforting and wonderful about the worlds of those books that I want to revisit them, and something so engaging about the characters that I love to spend time with them even if I already know what’s going to happen next.

7.  If you could live in any world depicted in a book, what would it be?

I’d love to live in the world of Harry Potter.  I also would love to visit (and maybe stay) the steampunk world Kenneth Oppel created for his Matt Cruse series (Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber).

8.  If you could kiss any book character, who would it be?

Ian Rutledge from Charles Todd‘s series, because the poor man needs some TLC!

9.  Do you communicate with your favorite authors on Twitter?

Not on Twitter, but I’m Facebook friends with a few and we do communicate that way.  I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with Magna Cum Murder for several years and have had the chance to meet many authors that way.  In some cases those meetings are what led to me reading their work (and in a few cases I’m more fond of them as a person than I am as a writer).

10.  If you could have dinner with four literary characters, who would you choose?

It’s really tough to limit myself to just four choices!

Nero Wolfe (because we’d not only have good conversation but excellent food)
Amelia Peabody (because watching her spar with Wolfe would be funny)
Armand Gamache (because we’d need a peace-maker at the table, and he’s a genuinely lovely man whose company I’d enjoy)
Albert Campion (because maybe with the other three at the table we’d be able to pry loose a few of his secrets)

And there you have it!