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Monday, January 30, 2017

There is more to life than multiple sclerosis...

Today I will vent...and not about multiple sclerosis or its many annoying issues. Aside from God and family, my life normally revolves around my MS, with a healthy smattering of fulfilling my dream as a writer. Today I will only focus on that dream with whole- hearted attention....until it is time to prepare dinner.

In the literary world the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena is on it's second round of publicity with the release of the second movie. Normally I would wildly applaud the author of such a feat with unbridled excitement. "Yea, for us! Authors rule! (Yada yada)"

But I just cannot do it today. I cannot condone the writings of E.L. James and retain my sanity. 

When the first book in the series was released, I (ashamedly, as an author) was unaware of it until it hit me full frontal during a signing of my own at an area Barnes and Noble. Set up right at the front door to welcome and hopefully entice customers, I found my heart beating madly at the oncoming onslaught of females headed in my direction. Since that particular B&N Saturday was actually sponsored by the county board of education, I felt certain that these gals were school teachers here to inspect my latest young adult title. 

I prepared my most welcoming smile and loaded my hands with book marks and business cards. Oh, yes, this day I would introduce these teachers to fiction sure to inspire their wards.

My shoulders back and head held high, followed the direction of the hoard with a hand in the air to indicate that I was there to serve.

But...alas...that parade of squealing women (yes, they were actually squealing) raced past my display to the table beside me. The one over flowing with black and white covers of a new release I had not noticed before. What was this that held their attention so raptly? Of course, as a writer, it was my responsibility to inspect this addition to the best seller list. Mainly because that is what writers do. It is necessary to "in the know" to truly be involved in your craft.

So, I left my table still clutching a handful of business cards to eavesdrop on these women. They were absolutely beside themselves with glee n the prospect of acquiring this particular book for what sounded like a marathon weekend read.

The book cover itself was a bit intriguing, rather plain yet classy. You just cannot go wrong with black and white, right? There was no way to pick up a copy for closer inspection what with all of those frantic fingers gobbling up books as fast as even more women entered the store and flocked around the table. So, I had to open my mouth and inquire (rather loudly) about this fuss.

And there my education began. 

"You don't know about Fifty Shades? OMG!"

A book shoved into my hands, the squealing continuing and growing in density, I broke away to return to my little, quiet table to ponder over this amazing thing happening right in front of me. What ever this Fifty Shades thing was, I wanted in. I had to get me some of what was causing those volumes to literally FLY off the display table.

That is what I remember thinking as I glanced at the back of the book before turning to the first page for a quick scan. I just could not see what the big deal was.

"I read it last night! It is my new sexual bible! I have to get all of my friends a copy. OMG! I hope they have enough!!!"

What? Sexual bible? Huh?

I quickly flipped through the pages of the book, scanning for hints as to the content. That when I saw them...those words...sodomy, masochist, blind fold...

It was my turn to squeal. And I did. Not that I am  prude nor do I condemn anyone their reading/viewing preference. It is simply none of my business. But I felt that I had to intervene in some way.

With a smile and (wavering) outer courage, I approached those women with my business cards outstretched and invited them to visit my table for taste of wholesome to take the edge off after a day of unbridled smut. (Sorry...I don't mean to sound contrite...or even jealous...but this was MY day and I really didn't want to share it with the likes of a handcuff merchant.)

I tried to replace the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that was burning my hand, but not before it was scooped up by the woman obsessed with purchasing as many copies as she could hold. I was successful at distributing my own information, but knew better to hold my breath as I watched dozens of female readers by pass my table for thew next three hours. I wanted to scream at them: "Hey! Real life author here signing books!"  
"Think of the children! Don't your students deserve a good read?"

By the end of my stay, I believe I might have sold a couple of my own books...when the Fifty Shades table was empty...but I was totally intrigued with the debacle I had witnessed.

Is this what a best seller looks like?

When I got home that day, I researched E L James and her work, finding myself blushing  all over my computer keyboard. Okay, so I guess sensation is a big part of success, but the Fifty Shades movement was going to have to survive without me.

Or, so I thought. When my bibliophile niece asked about my B&N experience, I described the entire what had happened and asked what she knew about the book and/or author. Like me, she is game for most any reading experience. No, she hadn't read it, but felt obligated to make her decision first hand. she would purchase if I read it first.

Free book? Sure.

I made it through the first fifty pages before tossing it (literally) her way and making her promise to not let her mother know who gave it to her. My niece finished the awful thing (y'know...informed reaction and all that) to let me know that once done, the paperback served as starter for her evening fire.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am NOT slamming the success of the author. Sure, the subject matter is on the far side of crazy, but that's what sells. My issue is that the writing is just plain terrible (coming from an experienced writing teaching veteran, award winning author, and co-conspirator young adult follower).

So, if she can make a living off of horrible prose, there has to be room for me with my clean, gut-wrenchingly honest stories of realistic teens. Right?

For the month of January I have offered a free signed copy of my latest book Bombs Bursting in Air in exchange for an Amazon review. Several reader have accepted the challenge and I am thankful. There is one more day in the month and the post office is very near my home, so there is time to get that last request to me.

I just need a mailing address; Either via PM or e-mail. I pay postage and am just happy to share some goodness.


Thank you for listening. Writing is what I do when I am not entertaining the MonSter.

Lisa








Friday, January 20, 2017

Praying for Peace in DC

I tweeted earlier this morning regarding my disdain for the rash of protests surrounding today's presidential inauguration. As I grow older, I find myself more in the mindset of a peaceful existence; thus, forcefully blinded by the unrest in our nation. I, actually, did not approve of either candidate and was forced, as much of the country, to select what I felt was the lesser of two evils. At this point in time, it is what it is and no amount of protesting is going to change the outcome of election decision 2016. Alterations may occur, but America has made the ultimate decision and today's festivities are proceeding in full swing.

I plan to take some homemade tomatoes soup and my knitting to my parent's house to view the televised activities in DC. Not because I am cheering on Trump and not because I want to see him fall. This is an historical day and my pride of being an American is my motivation.

Okay...I'm stepping down from my soap box. Enjoy the day and have a terrific weekend.
Lisa

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bowling, Part 2

Image may contain: textA few days ago I posted a picture of me (It really wan't me, but it aptly reflected my experience) bowling. I didn't do very well. I think my overall score might have been 50. 

Today is a new day at the bowling alley and my goal is to far exceed that result.  Since last Wednesday I have smoked my Wii bowling game. Just last night I scored an overall 164. Of course my son enjoys reminding me that cyber space is not...he, the guy whose social life consists of extraterrestrial fantasy avatars on his computer...

But, he's right. I know that my Wii bowling success is rather fake; but I am learning from  mistakes and feeling what earns a success. Today, I will keep my head down, eyes firmly focused on those arrow-like hash marks, while leading off with my right foot and keeping my throwing arm/wrist straight and follow through with my "pitch". I won't be doing any unnecessary sliding (ANY SLIDING is a no-no in MS land) because I will be wearing my own shoes (washed nicely for the event). That means my balance should be better than before.The neon pink ball that I picked outClick here to view larger image is a much better fit than the original ball I selected for my initial day as a "bowler". 

I'm feeling confident...or at least less likely to humiliate and disappoint my team mates. As the our gets closer I am certain that their decision to include me is providing negative emotions. The again, that is a totally narcissistic thought on my part. Who am  I to think that my existence is even important enough to intrude on their day. I guess it's just that innate need for approval. I don't want to let them down.

I think...no, I KNOW...my best recourse is to heed my own advice and let God handle it. 

Have a glorious day!!!!!
Lisa

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's get serious about life.


Related image


In an attempt to continue my K-W-L of life, I have decided that I really want very much to actually own my on line domain. Of course I decide to do this after purchasing a crate of beautifully designed business cards. So, said "ownership" will have to wait until all of my cards have been used. That means I need to get busy.

There is my message in a nutshell: We need to get busy with the importance of living. Just because my book illustrator (A shout out to awesome Ashley Teets!) designed the perfect business card that reflects my last novel doesn't mean that my job is done. Her job is done. Mine is just getting started. Bombs Bursting in Air is truly a great read and I proudly pat myself on the back every chance I get. The novel won first pace at the 2016 West Virginia Writers Conference. It received an honorable mention at the London Book Festival. It has received praise from friends and family. I recently overheard a fan tell someone purchasing the book "You won't be disappointed." 

I am humbled by such praise; but I need to let the moment rest in my mind and get that very message out there. I need to get serious about my writing career. (Mainly because that is all I have in the way of employ right now.)

The biggest reason I need to get serious is that this writing  business is a dream come true. 

I love books. Oprah's got her bread. I've got my books. (I like the fact that she loves books, too.)

From an early age I knew I wanted to write. I even allowed fellow students to pay for my research/writing  services in college. That was kinda boring, though. It is difficult to "get lost" in the technical world of chemical analysis. At least for me the rush just is not there. But the financial income these services provided allowed an otherwise destitute college student a little spending money.

The lesson of ghost writer did teach me something, though. I could actually make money with my writing. So, for years (and years) post college, the idea of writing as a career has festered in the back of my mind. I gave it a sincere shot back in my late 20's only to be burned badly by my blind trust in an agent with exciting promises and secret legal issues hanging over her head. I won't disclose any names, but it probably doesn't matter now. I don't think that business is in business any longer.

I dodged that nightmarish bullet, though, and chose to keep my writing to myself for the next several years. It wasn't until 1999 that the flame of of my writing passion was ignited once again. As a graduate student in Folk Life Studies, I was asked to submit an article to the school based quarterly. Traditions magazine focuses on Appalachian life style and is quite well known in the geographic regions of Appalachia  from Maine to Florida. I was honored and still am to be included in the pages of that tome. Money did not exchange hands, but my name was in print. The fire did more than flicker and I realized that writing was what I needed to do.

With a better understanding of the publishing world, I embarked on a rather expensive venture of self-publishing in 2011. It has been worth it, though. I have learned so much, of which the biggest lesson is to not be afraid of putting myself out there. In the age of social media and on internet communication, one does not have to wait for thew rejection of snail mail. Those pink slips come much faster, allowing us to get right back on that horse and submit faster and faster.

That is my job today: To finally get on that rocking horse winner (Do you remember that short story from high school?) and put myself out there so that Bombs Bursting Air, Abby, and I Have MS. What's Your Super Power? can find their forever homes in the hands of readers who "will not be disappointed".




[Contact me at LisaAnnetteMcCombs@yahoo.com to get free shipping on each order.]





Life is much too short to allow opportunities to pass us by. Make an effort to get serious about life today.

Have a great Monday!
Lisa





Friday, January 13, 2017

Personal K-W-L 1/13/17

Young woman sliding down a bowling alley

Yesterday I overheard someone say "once a nurse, always a nurse". I totally agree, but must add my own nomenclature to that. "once a teacher always a teacher." And today I am in the teacher mode.

But I promise not overly instruct. Humor me for a moment before looking for my message today. (All good instruction requires a preface.)

Let me introduce you to a reading teacher's stand-by method of instruction. K-W-L will not be unfamiliar to any of you with teacher training, but I really believe that this strategy is an easy fit for anyone wishing to evaluate goals and experiences.
As stated by NEA (National Educator Association):

Description

K-W-L (Ogle, 1986) is an instructional reading strategy that is used to guide students through a text. Students begin by brainstorming everything they Know about a topic. This information is recorded in the K column of a K-W-L chart. Students then generate a list of questions about what they Want to Know about the topic. These questions are listed in the W column of the chart. During or after reading, students answer the questions that are in the W column. This new information that they have Learned is recorded in the L column of the K-W-L chart.   
Further information can be found at the link below.
www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/printouts/KWL%20Chart.pdf

Basically this is what you do:


Select a topic you want to research. In the first column, write what you already know about the topic. In the second column, write what you want to know about the topic. After you have completed your research, write what you learned in the third column.
What I Know                                       What I Want to Know                             What I Learned

Got it? Okay. Enough with the instruction. What I really want to do today is share my own K-W-L for the week.

WHAT I KNOW
I really like spending time with my mother and actually enjoy being her taxi driver to her weekly bowling.

WHAT I WANT TO KNOW
How I can make our time together even more meaningful.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED THIS WEEK
I have learned that shared experiences are one of the best way to strengthen a relationship. With that said, I turned my weekly chauffeur int something far more meaningful. On Wednesday, I joined my mother's bowling league as a fourth on a rival team. 

What I learned instantly is that I SUCK at bowling. After three games, I wanted to hang my head in submission and bed forgiveness from my fellow team mates. They were full of encouragement and urged me to keep working at it. They assured me that I would improve and that they had all, at one time, felt the same. My biggest concern was that they had signed on the biggest handicap known to the national bowling league. Thank goodness they only had to tolerate me until April.

My team is composed of a fellow retired teacher (who is one of the kindest people ever and my son's very own beloved first grade teacher), a close friend of my mother's, and that close friend's sister. They are a God loving group of women and I feel certain that they left the bowling alley Wednesday praying that I might be deployed to a third world country before our next meeting.

As the bowling alley emptied, my mother suggested that I bowl a game on my own and I appreciated her insight on the situation.

So, armed with my awkward feeling alley owned ball, I began a new frame void of spectator appreciation of my form. After my first toss (IS that the appropriate bowling lingo?), I realized two things. 
1. I hated the precarious feel of those rented bowling shoes as I inadvertently slid forward while trying to remain upright and not face plant into the gutter with my ball.
2. My thumb was really hurting from all of the unusual exertion placed upon it in the past two hours.

I really cold not do much about the shoes because my street shoes were Ugg inspired snow boots (REALLY cheap) and absolutely would not  be allowed on the polished lane wood. But I could do something about the ball.

As a beginner I had initially thought that I should begin with a lighter weight ball and that as long as I could easily release my fingers from the finger holes that the ball was a good fit. Wrong.

I patiently shopped at the display of bowling balls displayed on the back wall of the room until one caught my attention and I nervously "tried it on". It was heavier than the six pound ball I had chosen in the beginning but my thumb (if thumbs could talk) immediately screamed it's approval. It was worth a try. I was no longer "on the clock" and there was only room for improvement in my game.

I approached my lane and already felt more confident. This bright pink  bowling ball felt right. Taking one, two, cautious steps and keeping my eyes firmly focused on the hash mark (okay, it is going to take while for me to learn the vocabulary, so for now I will rely upon what I know: football) slightly to the right of center, I took a breath and released the bowl. 

It DID NOT even come close to a gutter. It went right where I aimed it. 

No, I did not bowl a strike, but I picked up the spare on the next try.

Exhilarated I continued my solo game, hope filling my guilt ridden conscious. I really didn't want to burden my new team mates and really, really wanted to be more of an asset than a liability. I only bowled one gutter ball (as opposed to the multiple cleanings I contributed to the bowling alley custodial staff earlier) by the time my ten frames were completed. As my over all score flashed on teh screen above my head, I heard a thunderous clapping (well, okay, as much noise as five people could make) from behind me.

"Look at that! Look at your score, Lisa! See, you're getting the hang of it!"

I turned to see my team mates, my mother, and the bowling alley proprietor grinning from ear to ear as they supported my high score of 75.

That's when I realized that these gals were sincere when they welcomed me (literally) with open arms and that their encouraging words were real. Looking at my mother's beaming face I knew this was the right decision. If I was going to taxi her around I might as well participate in this part of her world. And, after all, I was part of the retired world that supported activities such as this.

And I also realized that MS was not going to rob me of such simple joys as bowling with my mother.

This was not the only thing I learned this week. My K-W-L chart could really go on for pages, but I will spare you all the details. (Or maybe hold onto them for a future posting?)

I am looking forward to next Wednesday. Mom put my neon pink bowling ball in her locker so that I would not need to search for it next week. And I plan to wear a pair of my own newly laundered Nike's. I do not plan to do any sliding and want my feet firmly planted for my "granny" style of bowling posture. I think I will be okay. Just for assurance maybe I will supply some edible treats for my team mates:)

I plan to do practice with my Wii bowling game this weekend. I would love to break 100 next Wednesday, but I won't hold my breath.

Have a great weekend. 
Lisa

Monday, January 9, 2017

Are you tired? Me, too, but I plan to stop.



As part of our “In A Word” series we recently asked the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook community to complete the following statement: “In a word, my most frustrating MS symptom is______”.
https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/fatigue-worst-ms-symptom/

And the answer is...fatigue.


In Lisa Emrich's article, found in the link below, she discusses her trials with MS fatigue and even questions whether or not her fatigue is actually MS-related.

Fatigue never issued into my MS until I  retired from teaching. This makes very little sense to me, since I now have more time to take care of myself and find daily space for rest and restful activity. In the past year (2016) though, I discovered that I truly am tired. every. day.

https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/living-well-with-ms-battling-fatigue/

For the new year, I have decided (whether my legs agree or not) that I WILL NOT waste time being tired. How will I do this? Ummmm...

Well today I am meeting a former student for coffee and a little "book" talk. This will get me out of the house and in the fresh (cold) air. It will be a small trip, but good for me. The unfortunate truth is that winter days can bring us down sometime. It is cold outside, the sky is dreary, and it is just too temping to huddle under a blanket and veg the day away. This outing will force me to wash my hair:) Since I like schedules, I have planned to do my vegging tomorrow, after a few little house keeping chores.

For the past few weeks I have been driving my mother to her Wednesday bowling date. I have really enjoyed hanging out with her bowling buddies and I am learning a bit about the sport. Well, I am going to learn BIG TIME this week because I think I going to finish out the season as the biggest handicap bowler in the league. It is a commitment, I know; but relatively short time since it all ends in April. It is a new experience, though, and I like adding to my collection of experiences. I am master of none, but I am truly an eclectic.

Moving on to Thursday: The weather promises to be 60 degrees and the perfect day for a road trip. My gal pal and I are going to take full advantage of the day with a journey to one of our favorite places: Yarn and Company in Elkins, WV. Yep. We are doing the big trip to the beautiful mountainous region of our state. We will shop, eat lunch, knit, and catch up on these last few months of best-ie deprivation. It will be great and I am looking totally forward to it. I am also totally worn out thinking about it, but this trip is necessary for my spirit more than anything else.

I will devote Friday to recovery and prepare myself for Saturday's book signing at Craft Connection in Fairmont. If you are close by, stop by and visit me and my writing buddy Diana Walker. We can assure you some great stories and an opportunity to obtain one (or more) of our award winning Headline Books.

Sounds like I am going to be a busy beaver this week. But I think I have paced my activities so that I have not over whelmed myself. That is the key. Pacing ourselves but keeping physically and mentally active.

So take some time for yourself this week, but do not forget to live.

Lisa





Friday, January 6, 2017

We are not alone!

Okay, I am ashamed to publicly admit this, but I owe it to you. 
illustration of humility yellow note concept sign

Mine is not the only blog out there focused on living with multiple sclerosis. I am not the only MS advocate/Warrior out there living with this ridiculous disease with my positive vibe boxing gloves firmly in place.

I am not your MS savior. 

But I am also not a fraud.

I really do have multiple sclerosis, along with the other 2.5 million Warriors around the world. And those are only the known diagnosed.

I have met a variety of folks living and dealing with MS and we all have our own story. In the past week I have had the privilege of add two new friends to my MS circle. Both of them female and both of them drastically different in all ways. Our one common bond is the fact that we are all MS Warriors. And we all have a wonderfully unique MS story. That is pretty much where the commonalities of our daily existence end.

Because every individual living with multiple sclerosis has their own story, we are not always as much alike as the public persona wishes to believe.

So, though we Warriors share a common trait, often we must realize that just struggling with the same disease is not always enough to make us blood sisters for life.

And so my message today comes to life.

During my early morning procrastination exercises of pretending to create a meaningful addition to the best selling potential of untold young adult fiction (yeah, five books published and I am still writing), I stumbled across three  notifications from Google that someone has actually been reading my blog. (No offense meant to those 67 verified followers. I just do not receive a lot of actual feedback nor interaction. I know you are out there, but it is awesome to actually converse with you:)

I looked at all three notifications from someone named Meg. Curious, and silently dying from writer's block, I clicked on all links to this person only to discover a blog that captivated me from word one. I read for over an hour. Meg is the real deal. Her story is nearly a mirror image of my own. While not an identical match, there are far too many elements to ignore.

So, I am throwing myself under the bus and giving you permission to ditch me today and go visit Meg. Her story is just the right medicine for a snowy Friday morning (six inches in North Central West Virginia and growing).


http://www.bbhwithms.com/

I think you will really enjoy this story and this blog. Have a great weekend,
Lisa



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What do you do for the cause?



Act Now For MS

Dear MS Activist,
The West Virginia legislative session begins on January 11. You are needed to move our legislative priorities forward! We will be asking legislators to reduce barriers to accessing medical treatments and make accessible home modifications more affordable.
Please join us February 6-7, 2017 for the National MS Society’s West Virginia State Action Day.
Schedule:
Monday, February 6
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm:  Legislative Training and Dinner, Hampton Inn Charleston-Downtown
Tuesday, February 7
8 am – 3 pm: West Virginia State Action Day, State Capitol
Please note on the registration page if you will need a hotel room, we have a small room block at the Hampton Inn Charleston-Downtown. Once registered, participants will receive a detailed agenda and information about acquiring accommodations.
If you would like more information about the West Virginia State Action Day and our advocacy efforts, please contact me at ashley.kenneth@nmss.org or 804-591-3048.
To register, please visit:
I hope to see you soon and wish you a very happy new year!
Sincerely,
Ashley Kenneth
Senior Manager, Southeast Advocacy
National MS Society



My goal for this month is to share alternative MS treatments, while learning from others of ways to tolerate this MonSter. 

Tomorrow, January 5, the Marion County MS Self-Help Group meets for the first time in this new year and I will share the highlighted state event mentioned above. I really believe that one way to deal with this disease is to educate ourselves about the infrastructure of our condition. Yes, infrastructure. 

You read it right. 

Sounds like a business, doesn't it?

That's because the business of multiple sclerosis is a real thing. If we do not address the politics of MS, we are not participating in the fight. That doesn't mean that each and every one of us need rush to the state capital in protest. But we all need a spokesperson, do't we? There are too many occasions in which individuals who really do not know our situation speak for us.

I think I just talked myself into attending this event...

Join me?

What are you going to do for the cause?

Lisa