Friday, June 30, 2017

The Big Reveal Isn't Really

I've seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are. It reveals who you are.
- Michelle Obama

I was reminded of this quote by the former First Lady this week after Donald Trump tweeted those nasty things about the Morning Joe hosts, particularly Mika Brzezinski. I only occasionally watch Morning Joe because it comes on during my prime writing time. But after Trump tweeted those attacks against Joe and Mika, I made sure I was in front of my TV the morning after, coffee in hand, to see what they had to say about it.

One of the things that struck me odd was how they were semi-defending Trump. Not the things he said or how he said them, but him, the person. They were recalling with several guests past encounters with Trump, back when they were all friends, and citing how different he was then and even up until a year or so ago. The conversation then went on to discuss whether or not Trump was suffering from declining mental capacity.  A very scary thought when you consider he has nuclear codes.

When Trump married Melania, both Rosie O'Donnell and the Clintons attended the wedding. Yet Trump has viciously attacked these people in the past couple of years. VICIOUSLY!

Most of us are well aware that Trump suffers from paranoia and run-away narcissism, and maybe he is suffering from dementia and a diminished mental capacity too, but, frankly, I've always thought he was a major asshole. I mean for decades I've thought this. Maybe he's only charming and fun when he's at parties. I don't know, because I doubt I'll ever be allowed within 10 miles of Mar-a-lago. I think they have an age and weight limit for women that I'll never meet. And I've always boycotted anything that has the Trump name on it, long before he turned to politics.

But the thing is, Trump has always been an egotistical ass. He has always screwed people over. He has always played fast and loose with other people's money, even ruining others as he's made millions. He has a long, long, long history of frivolous litigation and bullying. None of this started in the past two years. 

This is who he is.
This is who he has always been.
The presidency is just revealing his true nature.

The real question here is why were so many well-known and highly regarded people kissing his ass over the years knowing that he was willfully driving small businesses into the ground, suing at will, and bilking na├»ve dreamers with Trump University. Not to mention being a known misogynist. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It makes you wonder about their moral compasses, doesn't it?

So, Mika and Joe, while I sympathize with you being targeted, and don't support bullying of any kind, I have to ask: Why are you surprised that Donald Trump finally attacked you? You saw what he did to Rosie O'Donnell. And what he's done to the Clintons? And to everyone else in his path. And after hearing from you on your show about his threats to publish a trash piece about you, which included intimidating your families, I'm even more puzzled why you still think this is just a recent development in his personality. Behavior like this doesn't sprout overnight. It was always there. Always.

Did you not see it because you where charmed by his money and fame? If so, you're piss-poor journalists.

SAD.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Me, Danno!

All I can say is WOW!

My retirement target date is in 569 days... um 568 days... no, make that 567 days... oh hell, make that early 2019.

Yet, I've had three solid requests already for speaking engagements in 2019, none of which are in California. 2019 will be the first year I'll be free to wander the country to say hi and howdy to my many readers.

Over the years, one of the most frequent complaints I've gotten is that I don't do book tours. Not many authors do. It's a financial thing. In 2012 I wrote a blog about it. Everything in that blog still holds true today. (Read: It's All About The Math)

Enter retirement and an RV.

Once I am retired from my day job, I'll be able to wander the country visiting cool places, talking to readers, and selling signed copies of my books. I'll be able to set up speaking engagements, attend book festivals, and visit libraries and book clubs.  All the things I've wanted to do for years and could not.

Slowly the word is getting out about my plans, and the inquiries are starting to trickle in. I can't give anyone an exact date, of course, but I can put them on my calendar for 2019 with a note to contact them to set a firm date later. It's exciting!

One of the logistics of traveling like this is to try and lump events in certain areas during a set time. If I'm setting up an event in Texas one week, I cannot set one up in Maine a few days later. I won't be flying. I'll be driving. And I'll want to stop along the way in to see friends and visit state and federal parks. And I'll be writing. So besides a calendar, I'll be keeping a map close at hand.

If you would like me to visit your organization, fund raiser, library, etc. any time beyond spring 2019, please contact me via my website. I'll put you on the list and we'll work out details as the time for my Grand Adventure gets nearer.  All I'll need is a place to park my van for the night. And I won't even need hookups!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Taking My Life Back

Last week something happened that made me take stock of my life good and hard. On Tuesday morning I wound up in the ER with chest pains. They had occurred before, in fact almost daily for the past few weeks, but not nearly as intense. I pushed through them because I had so much to do and people were depending on me. But on Tuesday the pain was severe and after two hours did not go away. I called my doctor and was told to call 9-1-1. I didn't. Instead, I hopped into an Uber and went to the ER at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, where they immediately hooked me up to an EKG and slapped me into a bed. There was even more concern when they learned that my mother had died at 52 from heart disease. (Yes, I know I should have dialed 9-1-1 instead of taking Uber. I have been lectured about that, believe me.)

Nine hours later, after several EKG's, blood tests, a CT, and some meds, it was declared that my heart was fine, great, in fact. There was no sign of a heart attack, or heart disease, blockage, or heart damage of any kind. My lungs, another possible cause of chest pains, were also fine. So was my blood pressure. In the end, the pain was declared caused by stress.

Stresssssssssss

Stress is a killer, the doctors informed me. Stress can lead to heart attacks and strokes, I was told. It can affect your immune system, leading to other illnesses. It was the same song my GP had been singing to me for years. I needed to manage the stress in my life before it caused permanent damage. BTW, I already have vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that attacks pigmentation of the skin, which in my case is believed to be triggered by numerous bouts of stress-caused hives on my neck and throat.

For over fifteen years I've been juggling a full-time job, writing 2-3 novels a year, and many other responsibilities and concerns that go back even before then. The only responsibility I didn't have was a family. Year after year, the signs of stress were there: depression, binge eating, aches and pains. I managed them all as best I could and met every obligation. Come to think of it, I can barely remember a time in my life without a lot of stress.

Well that shit's over.

Generally, I have a great attitude about life, and it has helped me immensely in tough times. But now it needs a boost from these other things I can do to make the quality of my life better. I've always been a glass half full person. Now I need to be a glass FULL person.

In about 30 or so days, I will be turning in my last contracted manuscript. I won't be giving up writing, but I will be writing on my timeline, not a publisher's. That should help my stress level considerably, as well as not having to deal with the politics and BS of publishers, and working LONG-ASS HOURS for almost no money.  I will be commander of my own ship. I may do better. I may do worse. But no one will have control over my time and efforts but me.

The day job must continue, and in the past year they have given me more responsibilities. The job can be stressful, but I work for nice people who understand.  I can also lighten my load elsewhere so that what stress I have at my job can be managed better. And in under two years I will be retiring.

Learning to say NO. I love volunteering for good causes. And I will continue doing that, but on a smaller scale. I'm currently on the board of a writers group and enjoy it very much. But all other requests for my time are being turned away and some are being let go.

Taking better care of myself. In the past six months I've been neglecting my diet and exercise routine, saying I didn't have time. I've started that up again and I've declared war on binge eating and junk food. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers, but for me it's the first thing to get pushed aside. And one weekend a month I'm setting aside everything for a few hours and going hiking ... outside ... in the sunshine ... in fresh air. Something I used to do and haven't done for years. I even bought some hiking poles to help my fat ass. And I've booked a couple of real vacations.

Sleep is a wondrous thing. When I'm on book deadlines, I usually only get about five hours of sleep a night. Sometimes less. I'm now committed to seven a night minimum. It's amazing what that extra sleep has done for me already.

Readjusting my future goals. In May I was disappointed when I was turned down for financing for my RV van. I had pushed up my timeline to get the van because I'd gotten a great deal and thought maybe the van would help me de-stress. In all honesty, pushing up my deadline only added more stress. Being turned down last month helped me in the long run, like cosmic brakes. So now I'm looking to order the van in 2018, closer to my retirement date. In the meantime, I can downsize my belongings and acquire the things I need for my retirement at a slower pace.

Years ago my doctor offered me anti-depressants to manage my stress. He didn't push them, as some doctors do, but let me know that they were available if I wanted to go that route. I chose not to. I still choose not to go down that path. I believe I can handle this if I'm smart and committed to my own well-being.

We live in stressful times. Everything moves faster. People expect more of us. People are fired up in negative ways and acting out against their fellow human beings. I can't change the world, but I can change my little patch of it. I can be a better me.

As most of you know, I have an elderly cat named B. I adore that animal. I care for her best I can, giving her all the love and support she needs to have a quality life.  Maybe it's time I took care of myself as well as I do my cat.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Mai Tais

Yes, I'm well aware that a mai tai doesn't contain lemons, but let's say for the sake of argument, it does.

Late on the Friday afternoon before Memorial weekend  I did something big: I placed an order for a Winnebago Travato, my dream retirement RV. Then I spent Saturday and Sunday worrying about it, as I knew I would. This was the biggest purchase I have ever made. I've never bought a home or a fancy car. What if my financing doesn't go through? Although the dealer was pretty sure it would, it still gave me worry. I bought the RV much earlier than planned because I got a great deal for exactly what I wanted. And because I was obsessed with getting the thing. And I mean OBSESSED, like a serial killer.

The Tuesday after the long holiday, I got the news that my funding did not go through. It seems most of the reason was I didn't have a long enough credit history with large purchases. In fact, I had never made a large purchase, such as a home, in my life and had mostly paid cash in the last several years. My car is 10 years old and long paid for. I looked into other lenders, but wasn't happy with what I found.

What to do? What to do?

I was disappointed, of course. I really wanted that van! But after taking a LONG step back and reviewing the facts, I realized my timing was off. Way off.  I could have forced the funding issue by throwing down an even larger down payment or signing up with less than favorable terms, but decided not to do that. I'm not retiring for ... wait for it ... 587 days from today. I have plenty of time to purchase the van and get ready for my grand adventure. Maybe the funding turn down was the universe's way of saying, "Hold your horses, Sue Ann!"

So I put on my big girl panties and reset my buying timeline for mid-2018, less than a year before I retire.  Maybe then the financing gods will smile upon me.

Then I booked a week's vacation in Hawaii.

Now do you see where mai tais come in?

BTW, the Hawaii countdown is 138 days.