Transitions II

Sometimes, no matter how well you thought things through, how well you planned, how many details you thought you had all lined up the way they should be… it all goes flying out the window.

That’s what this past two weeks has been like for me. I had been making quiet plans to retire at the end of the year, trying to get everything I could anticipate taken care of ahead of time.

Part of that was giving Beth time to adjust to the prospect of having me home every day – in her words, interrupting the routine she’s established since she retired.

But as fate or luck or whatever would have it, circumstances have shifted so that I will be phasing out of my job beginning much sooner than I expected. Like… now. I’ve written before about my bad back, which, as bad backs tend to do, has only gotten stiffer and grumpier as I’ve aged. Enough so that some parts of my job were becoming unsafe for me to do.

My supervisor and some other people above my pay grade began working with me to help change around my job duties so that I will not have that risk. But that shift can only go on so long, with the end result that I will be transitioning from full-time work to part-time work to full-time retirement sooner than I had anticipated.

The future feels a bit murky at the moment. Sometimes, it feels a weight has been lifted that was a lot heavier than I realized. Other times, it all seems kind of scary. At least, that was Beth’s reaction upon learning she was going to have me around more and sooner than she’d planned for! 🙂

This transition to retirement brings with it a weird mix of sadness and relief. Sadness at no longer doing the thing I’ve done for 32 years, (it’s funny how much of ourselves we define by what we do), and relief that I won’t have to keep doing the thing I’ve done for 32 years. I could do physical therapy elsewhere if I wish, and I may. After a rest.

The upside, of course, will be more time to write and do the other things that I truly enjoy doing.

In my first Transitions post, published in June 2013, I wrote about the death of a friend and how it made me more determined to not wait until “someday” to do the things we really wanted to do. Since then, we have traveled to Ireland and Scotland, as well as other places in the US we’d never visited before. When the pandemic travel restrictions can be eased and more of the world has had a chance to be vaccinated, we’d love to see more of it.

So, I’m hoping this new transition will be just as positive. Even if Beth ends up creating a timetable for when I’m allowed to be in the house.

Crowded Tables

It’s no secret that I am almost off the scale on the introvert end of the Introvert-Extrovert continuum. I treasure time alone, and the isolation that the pandemic has imposed has not really been a hardship for me. But I balance that with the knowledge that I haven’t really been alone. I went to work every day and got to come home to my wife and dogs.

The social distancing has been much harder on her than it has on me. She’s about as far off the E end as I am on the I end. We balance each other nicely. She’s made do with Facetime visits with a knitting friend (I don’t know why she’d want to sit and knit and talk to someone other than me?).

But yesterday, we got to visit with my sister and niece for the first time since Thanksgiving 2019. I mean a full face to face, hugs and talks and laughing visit. We’re all fully vaccinated but have still been masking and isolating. We Facetimed last Thanksgiving as we celebrated separately. In normal years, we would have gathered in her house with anywhere from 13-20 people. It’s crazy and chaotic and noisy – and utterly wonderful.

Seeing them made me realize how much I missed it. Even me. There was a pretty big lump in my throat as they drove off.

Thanksgiving 2019 with a motley crew

It’s also time for the Golden Crown Literary Society to be planning their conference, which will be virtual again this summer. It’s funny that as strong an introvert as I am, I so look forward to seeing the friends we’ve made at that conference. I move from one group to another, doing more socializing in that week than I normally do in an entire year!

Me, Danielle, Jae

I recently heard this song from the Highwomen, and it really speaks to the need so many of us are feeling to be able to gather with friends and family again. Here’s to crowded tables soon!

One Good Thing

I can’t think of another thing in my lifetime that has united — and divided — the entire world in the same way that this pandemic has. Every country has suffered losses — loss of life, economic loss. On a personal level, so many people have lost loved ones. Many of us feel we’ve lost a sense of normalcy and stability that we took for granted would always be there.

But, speaking for myself at least, I think I’ve also gained something. And I don’t think I’m alone.

While some are running around maskless, congregating like there isn’t still a raging pandemic going on around them, others like me have used this past year to re-evaluate what’s really important. A year ago, it was hard to imagine being this content to eat every dinner at home, to spend the weekends with just my beloved and our dogs. Granted, I went to work every day, so I wasn’t at home round the clock, but even at work, most of us in our clinic re-assessed our own health and habits. We started taking breaks to walk, even if it was just around the building to say hello and check in. We jumped in to fill gaps when coworkers had to quarantine or suffered losses within their own families.

photo: Tatiana Kanevskaya

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of my mother’s passing, though I’ll commemorate it again on Good Friday. She was only 49. We do go on, but we’re never the same. That hole, that place where someone we loved was, it scars over, maybe looks whole from the outside, but the thing about scar tissue is, it’s fragile. It rips easily, and when it does, sometimes it exposes a gaping wound underneath.

There are millions of families around the world experiencing that kind of loss now. I got to be with my mother as she passed; they did not.

We know the light is at the end of the tunnel with vaccines rolling out now, but that tunnel still feels mighty long sometimes.

If you’re feeling adrift and lost in this pandemic reality we find ourselves in, I hope you’ve found some good, too. Maybe you rediscovered your gift for art or music. Perhaps you’ve had time to read those books you promised yourself you’d always get to. Maybe you look forward to hugging and being with your family and friends soon, but in a way you’ll never take for granted again. Maybe your hair got long enough to try doing something wild with it!

I don’t think any of us will emerge from this unchanged. Be gentle with yourself and others. Go gently back into the world when you can.

Pax

Honor

That word used to have a deep meaning to people. Warriors fought and died with honor, for honor. It was something worth giving one’s life for. More recently, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s remains lay in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, in recognition of his sacrifice during the January 6th insurrection that will surely live in infamy here and abroad.

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s remains lying in honor at the Capitol Rotunda

But there are many who have lost all sense of that word, most shamefully, many of our politicians and the rioters who desecrated that space and tried to overturn one of the most sacred rituals of our government.

Most of us will never have the opportunity to do anything as brave as standing up to a mob. We’ll never be asked to put our lives on the line to protect others. But we can live with honor in a hundred small ways.

We can do what is truly a patriotic duty now and wear a mask at all times when in crowded pubic places. We can get the vaccine if we’re physically able to try and create another buffer against the spread of the coronavirus.

I’m lucky enough to work in the medical field, but I’m not of the front-line workers tasked with caring for covid patients. Those people know the meaning of honor, facing long, stressful shifts every day, holding the hands of the dying so they don’t die alone.

We can look for ways to help others—volunteering or donating to people desperate for help now. Food insecurity, homelessness, loss of jobs—this pandemic has piled on so many miseries for so many millions. There are a million small ways we can live kindly, thinking of others, and that, to my way of thinking, is another way of honoring all those who have suffered in this pandemic.

My writing is such an insignificant thing in the bigger picture, but, still, it’s a thing. It’s a thing that I try to approach with honor. It’s a thing that has brought comfort and hope to others who have taken the time to write me and share their journeys. Writing has been a journey for me, too, one sometimes filled with despair that anyone was reading what I’d labored over, or that it would ever amount to anything. I guess that’s something all writers experience.

This morning, I woke to the announcement that I was one of this year’s recipients of the Alice B. Medal, an honor bestowed on 3 writers every year to recognize their body of work, rather than one novel, as most awards do. The committee is anonymous, as is their selection process, so no one really knows what the criteria are. All I know is I am in some awesome company this year, with fellow recipients Jae and Malinda Lo! Congratulations to both of them.

This award comes with a $500 honorarium, which I will split between the two charities I’ve been supporting as often as I can: The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Feeding Pets of the Homeless. These two organizations do some incredible work helping some of our neediest.

This blog post started as just a thank-you to the Alice B. Committee, but somehow, turned into a bit of a ramble (as many of my posts do).

The world will be a better place if we can all live each day honorably, looking for ways to think of others before self. Stay safe. Mask up. Get vaccinated when and if you can. Be well. Do good.

Pax, Caren

In Celebration of Spring

I know, it’s only February 2nd, Groundhog Day. This pandemic has kind of given us a different view of that movie’s premise of living the same day over and over again. For so many, it feels as if being locked in at home, not traveling or seeing family—it reduces every day to feeling like the one before.

But yesterday (in addition to being Feburary 1st) was also the traditional Celtic celebration of Imbolc, celebrating the arrival of spring and fertility, time to prepare fields for planting and welcome calves and lambs and foals.

This is also the month of Valentine’s Day and romance, no doubt harkening back to those ancient fertility celebrations. My books aren’t romances in the traditional sense, but almost all of them are love stories. So I decided to have my own little mini-Valentine’s Day sale for the month of February.

I’ve placed four of my books on sale for $2.99 for the rest of the month! They’re available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and others. I’ll post the Amazon links, but please check out the other vendors if that’s where you prefer to do your shopping.

Looking Through Windows — my award-winning debut novel.

Neither Present Time — this one is a sentimental favorite of almost everyone who reads it (including me!).

She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things — much happier than its title suggests! Really. 🙂

And finally, A Bittersweet Garden — a story set in the village of Cong on the magical isle of Ireland.

So, while cold weather and snow still abound here in the northern hemisphere, we can dream of spring and pass the days reading some great books!

Sláinte!

Pax Tecum 2020

One of the best things about writing this blog is that it’s a bit like journaling (which I’ve never done). Scanning back over past posts, it’s like having a window back in time to what I was thinking and doing back when. Without little hints like those, there are entire years that probably wouldn’t stand out for me in any special way.

But I don’t think any of us will ever write 2020 without remembering this year for so many things. The pandemic, of course, has overshadowed almost the entire year for all of us, regardless of where we live or what we do. Though my wife and I have been lucky enough not to have lost anyone close to us, we know those who have. My friend Jane, who lost her wife, Jacky. My co-worker, Rina, lost a grandfather and an uncle. It’s heartbreaking to read the statistics and know that each of those numbers ticking up the death count is a person who will not be at the table for the holidays this year.

I didn’t do my usual spring and fall fund-raisers for my food bank and Pets of the Homeless, mostly because I figured a lot of folks out there don’t have disposable income now for books. But because I’ve worked steadily through the year, we have been able to make regular donations to both organizations, plus a few animal rescues in Australia and California helping animals decimated by the wildfires both areas suffered.

Like lots of people, we won’t be traveling to spend Christmas with family. We miss seeing them, being able to visit, but we know this is the smart thing, the right thing.

If you’re lucky enough to still have the people you love with you, hold them tight. For those who have lost loved ones due to covid or any other cause, I wish you the peace of time and healing. Snuggle with your kids (fur or skin or both). Take time to breathe. See the beauty that is still around us.

Pax

The Next Best Thing

It goes without saying that this holiday season is different. Yay 2020. Chanukkah is almost over. Yule and Christmas are next week. The Northeast of the US is digging out from a massive snowstorm. But hey, snow, Santa, White Christmas. Look for positives where we can find them, right?

In normal years, there are a couple of massive holiday book sales and giveaways organized by some amazing women. I know many people look forward to the fun, the re-imagined (sometimes bawdy) holiday song lyrics, the little-kid anticipation of winning a book or being able to buy one at a reduced price.

Several of the lesfic publishers have been running giveaways or offering free or sales on books from their websites. You can check out Bella, Ylva, Desert Palm Press among others.

I’m not organized enough (obviously, as it’s already the 17th of December) to pull together a massive group of authors for a holiday sale. But as an indie, I can control my own sales and giveaways, so it occurred to me, I should!

So this is what I’m going to do: from today through January 1, 2021 (let’s hope it’s a better year for all of us), I’m going to draw two winners each day from commenters on this blog. Winner’s choice of any of my ebooks.

The rules:

  1. Please only comment once, and don’t include your email address. We don’t need to invite bad things to visit you.
  2. You can leave a comment anytime between now and the last day of this giveaway.
  3. I will keep a list of commenters and randomly draw two names each day. I’ll draw at 8 pm EST.
  4. Once you win, I’ll remove your name from the commenter list that I’ll be keeping track of. (this rule subject to change if I only get three people commenting… 🙂 )
  5. When/if you win, I will contact you to find out which of my books you’d like and in what file format. I promise not to bother you with uninvited messages beyond the giveaway.
  6. I will keep reposting reminders of this giveaway on my Facebook pages, but I’ll share more sparingly on group pages to avoid annoying people.

Please feel free to share this blog. If you’re unfamiliar with my books to even know if you’d like one, you can check out my titles HERE.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate the season, if you celebrate the season, I wish you the joy of family and friends, the comfort of a full belly (more food bank and Pets of the Homeless donations going out today), and plenty of books to read!

Pax, Caren

Night #1 winners: Dorothy, loulepl

Night #2 winners: Trish, laufkati

Night #3 winners: Etta, jiskeb

Night #4 winners: Eve, Sandra

Night #5 winners: Louise, piscesmoon2u

My apologies to everyone. About night #4, I started having wifi issues and am just now back online without skulking in parking lots hunting for wifi!

Night #6 winners: Widdershins, Beth Goodman-Williams

Night #7 winners: Penny, Shaz

Little Reasons

This Yuletide season will tough for so many reasons. There are still millions of people whose jobs have disappeared permanently. The unemployment aid some had will end right after Christmas if Congress doesn’t act. We’re facing a glut of evictions and foreclosures of those who haven’t been able to pay their rent or mortgages. Others are really suffering the effects of isolation imposed by pandemic precautions. Beth and I were just talking the other night about how very lucky we are to have each other (even if I think she tires of isolating with me sometimes 🙂 ), and how hard it must be for those who live alone. Over a quarter-million families in the US and thousands of others globally will be going through their first holiday season without loved ones who have died from covid.

I’ve read posts from people who are dealing with depression and other chronic issues that are all aggravated by the isolation and uncertainty. Lots of people have written that they’re not bothering with decorations or anything to do with the holidays this year. For them, there’s nothing worth celebrating.

I can’t tell them they’re wrong, but it feels more important this year than ever before to find those little reasons there are to celebrate. Like a lot of folks, we got the house decorated early this year. Not being with family will be tough, so we’re going to do the season up a little more than we usually do.

And we’re trying to be extra aware of the blessings we have. We have a nice house with warm radiators, and we never have to wonder where our next meal is coming from. We have two healthy dogs to dote on. We live in a town where most people are considerate enough of one another to wear masks in public and try to give each other space when walking. We don’t have to worry about money, and we’re blessed with enough to be able to donate to various charities to help those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

We always put up two trees – the bigger one in our library (used to be our dining room), and a smaller one in our sunroom, where we eat most of our meals. This year, we decided to adorn the small tree with all of the miniature reproductions of my books that I’ve been gifted by my friend and editor, Lisa. These beautiful tiny books have been part of our Christmas dĂ©cor for the last several years.

I know it can be hard to find reasons to celebrate, things to be grateful for, when it feels as if this year has given us nothing but sadness and grief. But I hope, if you look around, you’ll find things in your life, no matter how small, that give you joy.

Pax

Cast Me Gently Re-Release

I am very happy to let you all know that Cast Me Gently is available now through Corgyn Publishing!

If the cover looks familiar and you’re reading this like, “Whaaaaaa?”, I love this award-winning cover so much, and had worked so hard with Ylva to get the cover I wanted for this book, that I purchased the rights to it. There are small tweaks, but the image is the same.

Because Audible had chosen this as one of my titles they wanted to produce as an audio book (which got a terrific narrator, by the way) in 2019, I couldn’t really make any major changes to the story. Not that it needed any. I corrected a few typos that had slipped into the original version (it’s always a mystery to me how they do that despite multiple sets of eyes trying to find them), but that’s the only real change. So if you purchased the original version, there’s nothing significantly new in this version.

For any of you who haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and other distributors.

Samhain Blessings

Photo: Jane Morrison

It’s early in the morning of 31 October—Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain. A time of shorter days, longer nights. Tonight, the night when the veil between worlds thins, and it is said the dead can walk among us.

I don’t know if I believe the dead walk among us on this eve, but I do believe we can feel their presence, and not just on this night. This year, especially, there are so many who have gone on, passed through to the other side of that veil. This pandemic has ravaged the globe, helped along in many places by incompetent politicians who wouldn’t listen to science and, sadly, by humans who simply won’t alter their behavior.

This Samhain will be particularly poignant for all who have lost someone, all who are missing a loved one, as there are so many who were with us a year ago and are no longer.

A rare blue moon will also grace us tonight, lending her light to this night, maybe lighting the way for those souls who are trying to speak to us, to let us know it’s all right. Going on is not something to be feared. They’ll be waiting for us on the other side of that veil.

source: Farmers’ Almanac

Wishing you all Bright Blessings.

Pax, Caren