In Transition

For someone who hasn’t had a full-time job since May 2016, I’ve been awfully busy these last few weeks. And more than a little spoiled. This year my paternal relatives (Family 1) and my stepfather’s relatives (Family 2) both decided to go on vacation in late July. As of right now I’m back in my aunt’s house after a week in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida with Family 1. It mostly consisted of sitting by a glorious heated pool with a Rum Runner in my hand (either that or a Flying Fish, which was basically an alcoholic Arnold Palmer). Tomorrow my immediate family will pick me up on their way to North Carolina, where my stepfather’s sister rented a house by a lake.

I know – such a tough life for the partially unemployed. I didn’t even have to pay anything since my two aunts covered the Florida trip for the whole family. (At least I’m not the only spoiled one?) My main hardship these days is getting from Point A to Pont B. Both knees are fully healed, but I discovered that my quad muscles are nowhere near where they should be. The long walks and unfamiliar terrains wore me out, so by the third day I had to take a nap and borrow my aunt’s Aspercreme. It taught me a big lesson about staying in my comfort zone. For the past few months I’ve been getting around my house and other common places fine. If I want to go out into the real world, aka take the train to a job interview, I’ll need to push myself harder when my whirwind double vacation ends.

Vacation also made me a little frustrated with my “real life.” I mean, most people go on vacation to escape their daily stresses, which I don’t really have. While my general current situation stressses me out, it’s all self-inflicted. I don’t actually have anything to escape from. It made me feel stuck even though, IMO, finally addressing my knees after 29 years crossed a major life goal off my list. I will end up working full-time somewhere, but having no idea where freaks me out. My cousin who works for a college is trying to convince me to get my master’s degree. I’m still not convinced, and a master’s requires commitment. I can’t just say “oh, this sounds sort of interesting, I’ll take out a loan for that.” All I know is that I want to write for a living – maybe create web content or written communication for a major company. I’ll always write stories,but I can’t count on producing a bestseller. Right now I’m crossing my fingers the right job pops up when I search Indeed.com.

Oh well, I’ll worry about that next week. This week I’m going on vacation again. 

Advertisements

Psychics Versus Skeptics

I’ve always had a deep love of the paranormal. From a young age I enjoyed TV shows and books with a fantasy element. Then when I started writing, I mostly focused on the supernatural genre. The novel I’m writing now highlights psychic phenomenon.

Oddly enough, this transitioned to my real life. Over the years more than one person told me about their psychic experience or encounter with a ghost. At this point I’m not even fazed by it. If a friend tells me “hey, I saw a ghost!” my response is “okay, cool, what was it like?” I’m not so gullible that I believe every story I hear, but it’s happened often enough now that I don’t dismiss it either. Besides, it’s something interesting to talk about for the moment. Why not?

I’ve never seen a ghost myself though, or had a notable psychic experience. Go figure. Apparently I’m just a magnet for people who have.

The novel I’m working on explores psychic phenomenon, but with less fantasy – meaning I’m not going to throw in vampires and werewolves later on. In the real world there are psychics who inspire TV shows and work with the police. I’m fascinated by this weird dynamic going on – thousands of fans believe in mediums, while a major percentage of the population doesn’t believe at all. (Well, I realize the dynamic isn’t unique to this issue – it also applies to religion, climate change, etc. – but I’m talking about psychics.) Every psychic who emerges in the spotlight is immediately called a fake or a scam artist. Since all video can be edited, I wonder what it would take to convince non-believers once and for all. Maybe one day scientists will produce indisputable proof.

Then again, that would bring on another set of problems. Maybe we’re not meant to know for sure.

Working on my novel led me to read some non-fiction written by psychics. The first was The Other Side and Back by Sylvia Browne (with Lindsay Harrison). Talk about weird coincidences – this book had been in my house for years and I finally decided to read it. Apparently my mom got it from someone, so for a long time it was “that random book under the table in the basement.”

I found myself interested in her version of the afterlife. I’ve always liked the idea of reincarnation – it sounds so much more exciting than floating around on a cloud for eternity, you know? I even started a novel about reincarnation before…well, moving on to another story. Browne also talked about angels, spirit guides, and learning what you’re supposed to learn in this life so you’re more informed in the next.

These elements showed up in Theresa Caputo’s (and Kristina Grish’s) There’s More to Life Than This. I don’t watch Long Island Medium on a regular basis but I relate to her. We have vastly different personalities, but I’m also an Italian, Catholic New Yorker. Queens is right next to Long Island, so there’s actually a – very slim – chance we could cross paths one day. I thought it was interesting that, like Browne, Caputo spoke about spirit guides, angels, and learning life’s lessons.

Side note – I like that she explained how she can be Catholic and believe in reincarnation. I struggled with that concept myself and never expected to receive reassurance in a book. Plus, in a book about signs from Spirit, she kept referring to the date June 9th…which is my birthday. It’s also the day Caputo’s grandmother passed. When she mentioned her daughter’s knee surgery and June 9th in the same section, I was a little spooked!

But I’m a skeptic at heart. Really, I swear. I’m open-minded but I’m not naive. Any skeptic worth their salt would argue that Caputo copied Browne’s version of the spirit world and added her own voice. Maybe she did read Browne’s book at some point. However I still find the similarities worth pursuing, especially when I might be able to incorporate them in my novel. Next on my list is Allison DuBois’ Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye. And yes, I was a big fan of Medium!

 

Feeling 22

I turned 29 last weekend. Don’t get me wrong, while it sent me into a small “OMG I’m so old” freak out, I had a great time. I saw Wonder Woman in theaters on Friday (the actual day), karaoke on Saturday, brunch on Sunday. It was one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve had in a while.

It also made me feel like, at this stage in my life, I should be seven years younger. I’m more like a college graduate only with a few years of office experience under my belt. If I’d had good knees and my current level of confidence back then, I would have enjoyed my twenties much more. I would have driven sooner, gone out more, experienced life. Instead I spent most of my time writing stories I’ll never publish and working at a company that closed unexpectedly.

For the record, I still want to write. Maybe the difference is, again, my confidence. I’m satisfied with how my current work-in-progress is going and can see myself editing it for publication. It only took twenty years, but maybe that’s how long I needed.

Now I’m starting over again career-wise. I guess maybe I should be happy this all happened sooner rather than later. What if I’d stayed in my dead-end job for years and never pushed myself to get my knees taken care of? At least I can reinvent myself while I’m young enough to enjoy it. If I’m lucky I might even find a job related to writing this time.

Hopefully my thirties will be even better than my twenties – though, it’s not like the bar is set so high.

More of the Same

I missed my one-year anniversary of blogging! This blog was first created out of desperation on April 26, 2016. Let’s see, back then I was freaking out about my company closing, and about needing two knee surgeries instead of one. All perfectly logical reasons to freak out, in my opinion. While I’m more focused on other projects now, I’m glad I started this blog when I did. It’s nice being able to look at my thoughts and progress from the last year. Sometimes I’ve wanted to remember milestones from the first surgery, so it’s handy being able to look back through my blog.

I haven’t been updating because nothing changed in the last month – except for my recovering progress, of course. My walker has been sitting in the corner of my room since last month, I moved to the cane, and now I don’t even need the cane when walking around my house. I’m still wearing the small brace though. My original follow-up appointment with the doctor was May 18th, but she’s going to a medical conference, so now I won’t see her or the hospital’s physical therapist until May 30th. Frankly I don’t mind. At this point I think I just need to do my exercises until I’m fully recovered.

One sort-of interesting change is that I’m using a muscle stimulation wrap that was (hopefully) covered by my insurance. Electrodes literally zap my quad muscle to make it stronger. Plus I control the strength through an app on my phone. I’ve experienced this in physical therapy before, so I guess this is the home version.

Not to jinx myself, but writing has been going really well too. There was a break in freelancing assignments so I got to work on my novel. It’s close to 30,000 words now and I finally have a clear idea of what the ending will be. This might be a little too optimistic but I might even finish this draft by the end of the year.

I haven’t returned to baking yet, unfortunately. I should flip through my cookbooks again and pick something for this week.

Shameless Plugs and a Recovery Update

I know I haven’t been posting again. This is what happens when I have too many writer-ly things going on at once. There’s freelancing, my novel, plus I’ve recovered enough to start having a life again. However I did find time to churn out this ranty piece about a Hallmark movie I regretfully watched with my mom. I’m the first person to enjoy Hallmark movies for what they are, but this one succeeded in creating an emotional reaction from the audience – it pissed me off.

The Worst Male Lead in a Hallmark Movie I’ve Ever Seen

FYI, I’m really starting to miss baking too. I’ve followed a ton of food accounts on Instagram and Snapchat (add me on both @jgiarletta), so whenever there’s a particularly yummy post I want to make the recipe. As stated above I’m getting around much better now, which means I should be able to bake soon. Of course now it’s boiling in my kitchen since the weather decided to skip spring and go right ahead to summer. Maybe I’ll try no-bake desserts.

Full Update on Knee Surgery Recovery: The physical therapist worked a miracle when she taught me how to walk the right way. Soon enough I barely needed my walker. When I saw the surgeon for a follow-up on Thursday, she was thrilled (yes, female surgeon who’s an expert on the surgery I got). She – thank the Lord – switched me from the big knee brace to the smaller brace. That was a pleasant enough shock because I did not expect that to happen yet. Then she said I didn’t have to go to regular physical therapy yet either. This is also amazing because I won’t have to pay freaking fifty-dollar copays yet. I’m hoping that, when I see the physical therapist again in a month, she’ll tell me I won’t have to go at all. At this rate I’ll be walking normally again – with the brace on – by the time I see her.

Counting My Blessings

While I’ve neglected this blog, I have been a busy little writer bee lately. I hit thirty pages for the new version of my ongoing novel project (I lost track of how many versions there’s been so far). On top of that, a freelance gig assigned me new blog posts that are longer than the ones I previously wrote for them. All good things, but between that and recovering from my knee surgery, I haven’t had much motivation left for this blog.

As usual my recovery has been the standard roller-coaster of emotions. My knee is a lot less stiff than the other one was because the surgeon completed this procedure in half the time. On the other hand, I had much more trouble walking this time around. Before I wasn’t so concerned about walking correctly because I still had one knee left to do. When trying to “be good” over the past month, I could barely out-shamble a zombie and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Thank God for the hospital’s physical therapist, who I saw for my belated four-week appointment on Saturday. Apparently I should be leading with the surgery knee instead of the recovered knee (wouldn’t you think it was the other way around??). The therapist made sure I had the technique down pat and showed me exercises to make sure my “muscles fired.”

I’m so grateful to be on the right track again. On Saturday night I went to my aunt’s house, my first social outing since the surgery (though I’ve had visitors every week). I’m still struggling a bit but I’ve improved more these last few days than I have the entire month. I’m also glad I didn’t miss dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house because I got to see my cousin and her new husband after their destination wedding last week. Although, watching their wedding video made me wish I could’ve gone to Jamaica! At least I wasn’t the only relative who couldn’t make the trip.

I’ve had a more positive outlook these past few months. Instead of cursing my misfortune of needing two consecutive surgeries, I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to fix knees that have bothered me my whole life. Still living at home at my age turned into a blessing because I didn’t have to worry about giving up an apartment and moving back home post-surgery. I’m grateful for my two best friends who have visited me every weekend in the last month. I’m even feeling optimistic about my writing again. While I still doubt I’ll make a living selling books, I’m hopeful about eventually publishing my current work-in-progress.

That said, I still dread getting back behind the wheel of my car in a month or so. I just have to remind myself of all those hours I wasted taking public transportation.

 How I Get Ideas

I often use terms like “brainstorm” when talking about the writing process. Putting words to computer screen only happens if there’s a crapload of activity swarming around in your brain. Whether you’re a pantser or a planner, there needs to be something going on up there before you open a text document. Thinking about your future best-seller is just as important as the physical act of writing it.

So how does an aspiring writer* get the proverbial juices flowing? Where do great ideas come from? (*IMO, the phrase “aspiring writer” is a misnomer. If you create a story, you’re a writer. People should say “aspiring author” in reference to someone who wishes to be published.)

In my limited experience, there are two parts to this answer.

Inspiration

Inspiration can be a good angel or a bad angel. It’s a good angel when you’re really stuck and have no clue what the hell to write. It’s a bad angel when you’re midway through a novel and a shiny new story idea distracts you from a project you’ve been working on for months. We’ll address the positive aspects of inspiration here.

You can harvest ideas from literally anywhere, and I do mean literally. The trick is opening your mind to them. While you’re out in the world, working at your day job, spending time with friends or family, listen to what’s going on around you. The same applies when you read a book or watch TV. My own novel-in-progress combines elements of shows I’ve loved over the years. (Mostly Disney Channel’s So Weird, a show with a permanent place in my heart. There’s also some of the dynamic from  ABC’s Castle, and the premise will probably make people think of X-Files.)

So when you’re not writing, grab on to anything interesting and expand on it in your thoughts. Add a plot line, characters, settings, themes. I picture the process as a Rubik’s Cube, where you have to move all the pieces around until they finally click together. When a scene takes shape (any scene, not necessarily the first one) you’re off and running.

Playing Twenty-Or-More Questions (Or, How to Drag Yourself Out of Writer’s Bock)

This is a technique I use when my surroundings don’t feel particularly inspiring. I’m the type to ask myself the tough questions when things aren’t going right, so I apply this to my writing. It’s also a great way to pull a story idea from thin air.

For starters I’ll ask myself these types of questions:

What do I want to write about? (Can mean anything – person, place, theme.)

What story line would fit that topic?

Which characters would best demonstrate what I want to say?

Am I in the mood to write something light or dark in tone?

Which genre appeals to me right now?

Answering those questions always gets the ball rolling. When I inevitably hit a wall after the first few chapters, the questions become a little more difficult.

Why am I stuck?

If I don’t want to write the next scene, why is that? 

What can I change?

Does this story suck and I haven’t realized it yet? (Ignore that one.)

Where do I want the story to go?

Keep playing the game until something breaks loose. The only way to defeat “writer’s block” is to think long and hard about why you’re not writing.

Another Ground-Breaking Opinion on Ross and Rachel

I realize the last thing this world needs is my opinion on Ross Geller and Rachel Green’s breakup. Fans have debated/fought/screamed about it since it first aired. I’m willing to bet money that someone, somewhere, is discussing The Breakup at this very moment. But you know what, I’m watching season three (for the upteenth time), and I’ve never spelled out my thoughts on this particular topic before despite being a die-hard Friends fan.

So, the Short Version: Both Ross and Rachel messed up. They weren’t meant to be together at that point in their lives. I’m not even a big fan of them as end-game. (I prefer Monica Geller and Chandler Bing, or “Mondler.”)

The Long Version:

Let’s go over Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Even when it’s good, it isn’t perfect. They fight constantly and have no common interests, even mock each other’s careers. At the root of it they lack respect for each other. Instead of trying to overcome their communication issues they brush them aside. Ross doesn’t trust Rachel with Mark right from the beginning and never makes a real effort to change. While Rachel never has any intentions to cheat on him, telling Ross she wants to keep part of her life separate (episode 3.14) isn’t reassuring. Rachel becomes more focused on work and neglects Ross. Meanwhile, Ross plans their future together and blames Mark for her disinterest entirely.

I don’t believe Ross ever sees Rachel for who she really is. Even after she’s been in the real world for three years, he still thinks of her as the spoiled princess he knew in high school. He’s her knight in shining armor who can whisk her away to a picket-fences life in the suburbs. He has no idea she’s still running from that picture and the expectations of the world she left. I suspect this is partly because he’s still recovering from his own disastrous relationship and needs to be the knight in shining armor again to boost his fragile ego. To him, everything falls into place: “The girl I crushed on in high school comes back to me right after my marriage ended. We’re meant to be.” It never occurs to him she’s not in the same frame of mind.

With that shaky foundation, they’re bound to collapse eventually. Their ruined anniversary and a one-night stand happens to be the trigger. In a way it’s similar to Monica’s breakup with Richard Burke – Ross and Rachel want different things at this point in their lives. Ross wants to be married again and Rachel has a newfound career. They’re never going to work until Rachel achieves her professional goals and feels ready to settle down.

That’s why I don’t care who did what. Rachel should have acknowledged their anniversary and promised to make up for missing it. Ross should’ve talked things out with Rachel and not hooked up with ChloeRegardless, their relationship is doomed to fail from the start.

maxresdefault

Finding My Balance

I’m a lot less cranky than I was after my last surgery. Since they didn’t put me on strong pain killers this time, I felt alert as soon as I got home from the hospital. I took a nap then went on my computer and read as usual.

I’m also getting around so much easier since I have a strong knee to lean on. I can’t believe the difference from last time. I feel like I’m a month ahead of my recovery when it’s only been exactly a week.

Even before the the surgery I began thinking about my life afterwards. First item on the to-do list is to get back into driving. Then I need to find a full-time job. I’m trying to be optimistic about both.

I think of the fun stuff too. I’ll be able to ENJOY my summer without worrying about my knee going out when walking on a slippery pool area or sandy boardwalk. I’ll be able to spend all day outside without worrying about finding enough places to sit. I can finally go out and DO. When I get settled in a new job, maybe I’ll even find a yoga class or something. God knows my balance needs all the help it can get. (Having friends who are into exercise helps. They can’t wait for me to go hiking with them.)

This frame of mind is new for me because I’ve always been content to sit in front if a computer and write. I never had much natural energy. While I still want to write, I also want to experience more things that can inspire me to write. The trick will be balancing my newfound outdoorsy self with my former couch potato instincts.

It’s Surgery Eve Again

So I was going to make a post about how I made these Pound Cake Cookies from a book and they were yummy, but let’s be real…I’m not thinking about cookies. All week long I’ve been trying very hard NOT to stress about my knee surgery tomorrow (ligament reconstruction).  Purposely not thinking about stuff really doesn’t work. I’m good at distracting myself but crazy, negative thoughts sneak in. My family has been telling me to think positive so let me try that.

The surgery will go fine tomorrow. I had the exact same surgery last year. Then afterwards the recovery will go faster because I’ll be stronger and will know what to do. Then after that I’ll have to drive again and look for a full-time job…

Whoops, one too far.

The surgery will go fine tomorrow. There.

Screw it, I’m watching some cartoons.