Plans Derailed

Well, as any of you who have been with me for a while can expect, my plan was derailed.  I mean, after all, it’s right in the title of this blog that things are going to interfere with my plans on a fairly regular basis. haha.

If you recall, I was going to take large chunks of time on the weekends and dedicate them to one project or another so I could really invest some productive time and effort to make measurable progress.

I didn’t even make it one week.

My husband works 4th shift in a manufacturing plant. Fourth shift is a weekend only shift, so he works 12 hours Saturday and 12 hours Sunday. Because the plant is open 24/7, they need machines and equipment running 24/7. The 4th shift alternates with 1st, 2nd and 3rd…so when 1st shift works their weekend, he works 3rd shift and so on.

The next weekend after my big announcement that I was going to invest all of this time into my projects, hubby happened to be on first shift.  I was looking at 12 hours days of being completely on my own. He works 10-10…leaving our house at 9am and not getting back until 10:30pm.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this:  I love my husband. I do.

I completely enjoy those weekends when he’s off at work all day. When he’s working third shift, I have to be quiet in the house so he can sleep during the day. I have to watch what I make for lunch so the smell doesn’t wake him up (fish, spinach and mushrooms are no-no’s). I feel the need to run outside and kick our neighbors in the shins when they get their lawn mowers out. Generally, I spend more time worrying about helping him get the sleep he needs than I spend doing anything else those weekends. This is, actually, the best time to just leave the house and go shopping, but that’s a whole other story.  haha.

On his first shift weekends, all bets are off.  You’ll find shrimp and salmon cooking on the stove. I’ve got the radio turned up so I can sing along as I fold laundry. I turn off the air conditioning and open windows to let in the smell of all that freshly cut grass.

So, it was a first shift weekend and I was doing everything else but writing.  My back and knees were protesting loudly about the amount of housework they were forced to participate in. I cleaned out closets, my office and the laundry room. I organized and purged. By the time I was done, there was no way I was sitting at the computer. I was flat out on my super comfy sofa.  🙂

The weekend after that, I was preparing for one of everyone’s favorite exams – the colonoscopy. I turned 50 in April and my doctor just couldn’t wait to hook me up with another old person exam. The doctor’s office had, ten years ago, gleefully sent me up for my first mammogram. That’s been an annual joy ever since. Happy birthday, Julie! For your birthday this year, we’re giving you a referral to Charleston GI. Best birthday gift ever. 

Last weekend, I needed a break. I didn’t do one damn thing but read my book (I still have 200 pages left of the old confederate widow book) and watch TV. That’s not completely true…I also did a book review.  But you know what? It felt great! Every once in a while, I think everyone needs to just have a weekend to lay low and waste away the hours. It felt so indulgent…almost naughty. In today’s world, we are truly not conditioned to relax, but to just keep moving, moving, moving!

So after my mini sabbatical, this weekend rolls around and I feel recharged. It’s another first shift weekend for hubby, but I was focused and ready to go. I’ve been working on my story about my dad all morning and made some great progress.  To the point where I felt I needed to stop, print it out, and do a first bit of editing.  I’ve been busy with stream of consciousness writing…just getting as many of the easy parts coming from my head and my life experiences down on paper. I know there is repetition that needs to be cleaned up. I also need to find the breaks between each experience where I plan to cover dad’s military service and what was going on in Vietnam while he was there.   It feels like a good place to stop for today so I can let the writing breathe a little before I get my red pen out and begin slicing and dicing.

That does not, however, mean I’m headed to my sofa (although it looks so very inviting). I’m spending the rest of the afternoon working on my family tree. I’ve got some tintype photos I want to try and get restored…I have Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers I’m searching for details on their war service, and I have to begin collecting birth certificates that will enable me to keep going backwards in time with confidence that I haven’t accidentally taken a fork in the road.

I’m blogging about that journey as well ~ check it out at: https://applesfromourfamilytree.blogspot.com/

 

Word count: 11,639

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A New Plan Takes Shape

I’ve been forced to make a new plan.  I was trying to do a different project each night of the week.  One night was for my crafts…one for writing…one for genealogy…you get the idea. But by the time I got home from work, made dinner and cleaned up afterwards, I didn’t have all that much time left.  And a lot of nights, I just didn’t have it in me to do anything but relax on the previously mentioned sofa.

Well, this weekend, I thought I would try something different.  I decided I was going to dedicate a block of time…4 hours…to working on writing projects, whatever they might be. So, I wrote an entry into my Story of My Life book. I did a little research and wrote a bit more for my dad’s story, I wrote a synopsis of my novel for my latest submission, and I’m writing this blog post.

I’m pretty damn proud of myself.

On top of all of that, I started reading another book review book, and read a few pages of the book I’m reading because I want to: Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. I’m about halfway through it right now and it’s been a little challenging to get into, but it’s been a great story. If you ever wondered what the world was like through the experiences of a regular person during the Civil War and beyond, you’ll feel like you are actually there, living it along side the characters. There is a little bit of flashing back and forth from the old folks home where the widow is living out her final days back to the days of her youth. The transitions are sometimes jarring…I don’t expect them and sometimes don’t realize we’ve time traveled right away. But otherwise, I’m enjoying it.

I would keep going, but I’m exhausted.  I didn’t take one of my weekend naps today (I absolutely love a good nap) so I didn’t get a chance to recharge. Now it’s almost 10pm, so I may as well just go to bed and begin again tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to an equally productive day tomorrow. I wish productive days for all of YOU as well!

 

Word Count 6,500

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Writing What I Don’t Know

I’ve come to a bit of a stand still.

This is the problem with not following the advice of your 10th grade creative writing teacher (and, frankly, every writing teacher you ever had) who said,  “Write what you know.”

Because if you write what you don’t know, you have to do research.

This isn’t a huge deal for me because I enjoy doing research ~ it’s one of the reasons I love genealogy so much. But the problem is that I don’t want to research the whole of the Vietnam War to write this story about my dad, but I’m not sure how easy it is going to be to find just the information I need (the time he was actually involved in the war) and be able to understand what was going on without…you know…researching the whole of the war. 

The frustrating part about doing the research is that it’s time spent not writing. And y’all know the last thing I need is another excuse to not be writing.

Plus, I still have my other story waiting in the wings. I wonder if I could work on both at the same time.



Yep…and then pigs will fly and hell will freeze over.

But yet…maybe that’s the solution.  Maybe by keeping myself writing, I’ll be inspired to keep going.  It’s like, when I’m cleaning the house, baking and running errands ~ if I keep going, I’m fine.  As soon as I stop for a “quick break,” it’s all over. We all know there’s no one getting back up off the sofa to finish the dishes after 4 hours of cleaning toilets and baking cookies (not necessarily in that order), and running to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. At least none of us who have started receiving AARP registration materials in the mail. Once I’m sitting, I’m sitting for the duration of the day. My back and my knees will allow nothing else.

Too bad my computer isn’t next to my sectional…I love my sectional…the corner where the two pieces come together is SO cozy.  And we have blankets and pillows…well, have a look for yourself…

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There’s even room for the cat to snuggle up (as evidenced by the cat toys and scratchers) and the ottoman that can be pushed over there so you can put your feet up.

How is this not the most comfortable looking piece of furniture ever?!  Sometimes I spend whole days there.  haha.

But that’s not the point.

Maybe by keeping going, I’ll get through the research more efficiently…or I can break it up into chunks so I can research a little and write a little. Then research a little more and write a little more.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m sitting here trying to write this post while I look at a picture of my comfy place with the soft blankets and the fuzzy pillows. We all know I’m not writing anything else tonight.

There’s always tomorrow!

Word Count: 5,286

 

 

 

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Because I Need Another Project

I’ve been working on my story about my dad, but I’ve got only about 4,000-5,000 words written.  Well, that’s not completely true….I have a few short stories of him that I will be blending into this larger work, so there are probably more like 10,000 words written, but I’m not counting those until I actually copy and paste them into the main story.

My Maternal Grandparents

As is always the way with me, this project has refocused me on my family tree project. So much so, that I’m thinking about creating a second blog to document that whole process.  I feel like I have so much information in so many different places, that if I can get it all organized on one electronic platform, that it will help keep me organized. The only thing keeping me from jumping in with both feet is I don’t know if I want to do this as a blog or as a website.

What I’m envisioning is a place where I can have different tabs/pages for different branches of the family (there would have to be a way to differentiate between my family and my husbands, generally, and then surnames on each side from there)…with a copy of the family tree, maybe the map showing our DNA results from where the family comes from with their immigration pattern to the U.S. And photos, of course, along with family stories if I know some or can find some. My goal beyond organization, is the ability to get a more visual feel of my ancestors and their lives (in one place) and to allow for easy sharing with the rest of our family.

I’m not sure what type of platform (blog or website) would work best for this project and I spent a couple of hours yesterday trying to research other people’s sites who maybe have done something similar.  I haven’t been all that successful ~ I would suppose most people who have those types of websites or blogs set them up to be private for family only. Which I completely understand, but it leaves me with little help trying to figure out which direction to go in.

I would like mine to be public, because even if I choose a website format, I want it to have a blog so I can share the research process as I go along, so I would like that part, particularly, to be public.  I’m going to work the privacy issue by starting my tree with either my grandparents or great-grandparents ~ basically, no one living except for my husband and myself will be on the site (unless other family members would like to be). I would suppose with a website, I can make the blog public and keep the other information behind a “Member” wall?

If anyone has any insight or ideas about what might be the best way to go about beginning this project, I would love to hear from you!

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Start Next Project….Check!

Whew, it’s been a little while since my last post.  May has been busy!

My week-long work event went well and I started working on the story about my dad.  I’m not very far…and I haven’t worked on it since I got back in town. But in my defense, the very next week, my mom and niece were here for a visit. We had a great time ~ I love playing tour guide and showing people some of what my husband and I love about Charleston. It gives me a chance to play tourist again ~ it’s so easy to do and I love exploring. I find that I never see the same sights twice.  Even though I’ve been to Magnolia Plantation 4-5 times, I love it every single time.

My niece, Mom, me and hubby, reading to head out into the harbor on our boat tour.

My niece, Mom, me and hubby, ready to head out into the harbor on our boat tour.

Thanks to Mom trying to not have me go to the same places again, we visited a plantation that I’ve not yet had the chance to explore ~ Middleton Place. I have to admit, I was concerned in the beginning about going to this one. The main plantation home and another building housing their art/music galleries were destroyed in the Civil War…the only house remaining is the gentleman’s guest quarters and business office. I wasn’t sure how interesting that was going to be ~ for me or Mom and my niece. I needn’t have worried. We spent easily half the day there and I need to go back and see the things we missed.  That’s the beauty of many of these historic sites…there is always more to see. Or more ways to interpret what you are seeing. Or more details to pick up on, now that you’ve had the chance to take in the overall picture. There is so much history here, that it can be overwhelming, trying to take it all in at once.  Every time you see a plantation, walk the streets of downtown, or take a guided tour, you will find there are other pieces of the puzzle you can add to the story.

All that remains of the main house and the art/music galleries.

All that remains of the main house.

Middleton Place Gentleman's Quarters

Middleton Place Gentleman’s Quarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have to point out that, even during these two weeks of eating basically anything that got put in front of me, I managed to not gain any weight. I was able to maintain my weight loss to within a few tenths of a pound.  Now I can refocus and keep working towards my goal without having to do too much work to re-lose pounds that managed to find me again during my two weeks of reckless abandon. Dessert with every meal? Yes please! Full calorie soda, foods swimming in sauces and deep fried goodness? Absolutely!

Here we are enjoying loaded baked potatoes and nachos at Smoky Oak Taproom. My husband and I rave about these potatoes!

Here we are enjoying loaded baked potatoes and nachos at Smoky Oak Taproom. My husband and I rave about these potatoes to anyone who will listen!

Thanks to the record breaking heat here this holiday weekend, my plans to go out of town were put on hold in favor of staying close to air conditioning. I can’t help it…when we go out of town, I want to explore.  I want to hike to waterfalls, search for treasures at the local flea market, and seek out alligators in the swamp. My husband was not excited about doing any of those things with the temperature hovering somewhere around 100 degrees. I can’t blame him, but it was disappointing that the one weekend we could have gone and had some fun, Mother Nature has to go and stoke the fire in the furnace.

But, to put a positive spin on it ~ I have some extra time to write that I wasn’t expecting to have. That’s not to say I’ve taken advantage of that yet (and it’s 3pm on Monday) but I’ve gotten a bunch of other things tackled that needed to be done. Because…you know…that’s how it is when you are writing…any other possible activity that you can be doing besides writing…

 

 

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Picking at a Scab

I apologize in advance for the rambling that is about to begin…or the soap box I’m hopping up on…maybe both.

The book review I’m working on this week for IndieReader, is written by a Vietnam Veteran about the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on our soldiers who served as “boots on the ground” in Southern Vietnam. The book, Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War was written by Vietnam Veteran Patrick Hogan. In it, he goes into great detail about the chemicals used in Vietnam. Agent Orange is but a slice in the dangerous chemical pie.  He shares studies about the dangers of the various chemicals, as well as the battles he and other Vietnam Veterans have waged against the Department of Veterans Affairs over the years regarding illnesses attributable to the chemical warfare they were exposed to during their service. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m close enough to the end that I’m angry.

My dad passed away in 2009 from a heart attack connected to his adult onset, Type II Diabetes. His diabetes can be connected to his time spent serving his country in the Vietnam War. Not only did he have diabetes, he also suffered from high blood pressure, he was irritable and angry, and spent most days in his recliner napping his life away. (Unnatural drowsiness and psychiatric changes are also effects of Agent Orange.) And the best (or worst) part?

He was only in country twice for short periods of time.

Dad was an Air Force mechanic stationed at bases outside of Vietnam…most notably Taiwan. Mr. Hogan was stationed in Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. My dad was there for a couple of weeks, from January 29 to February 15, 1969. He also had boots on the ground on September 19, 1969 to repair a plane in Da Nang.

In all, Dad was “in country” less than a month and came out the back-end with the maladies above.

I can’t even imagine the situation for those Veterans who spent their entire service in the jungles of South Vietnam. Well, yes, I can imagine ~ Mr. Hogan lists his illnesses and disorders in the book and breaks them out by ones the DVA has accepted as being caused by his time in the service, ones the DVA doesn’t accept, and those he hasn’t even submitted to them yet.  In all, he has twenty-two health issues that can be tied to his time in the service and his exposure to the chemicals and conditions in Vietnam.

Until the 1990s, the government refused to acknowledge that Veteran health problems were related to the chemical warfare in Vietnam at all! Millions of gallons of Agent Orange, Agent White and other herbicides and insecticides were used. The service personnel on the ground were spraying DEET right on their skin to ward off insects.

It sickens me that all of these kids ~ because most of them were kids, drafted into military service ~ who trusted their government would protect them and stand behind them, came back to the U.S. and were treated like second class citizens. They took the brunt of the public’s scorn about the war ~ and the government allowed them to be the scapegoats. They were denied the protection they deserved from the government, and the care/support they should have been entitled to when they returned home. The government turned a blind eye, knowing full well the dangers of the chemicals before they sprayed one square mile of Vietnamese jungle. The soldiers were led to believe that the chemicals were safe for humans. They trusted their government wouldn’t let them down…wouldn’t throw them to the wolves.

It makes my heart break for my dad and all the other Vietnam Veterans who, having made it home after their tour of duty, have died from or are currently suffering from, illnesses and conditions that most likely developed while they were serving their country. Eighteen and nineteen year old kids who sealed their fates the second they stepped of the plane in South Vietnam.

My dad might still be alive today if he hadn’t served in Vietnam. Other descendants of Vietnam Veterans might still have their loved one. Not just from the U.S., but also Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and others. And what about the South Vietnamese themselves? Our service members, contaminated as they were when they left, still got to leave.

I knew of Agent Orange in the most basic sense, having learned about the war in school. It wasn’t until shortly after Dad died that it really began to sink in.  We went to order a gravestone from the V.A. office and mom just started talking to the woman and mentioned Dad having been in Vietnam a couple of times to fix planes. The woman stopped what she was doing and asked, “He was in country?” My brother and I glanced at each other, wondering what this was about.  My mom kept sharing the story.  The woman asked Mom if she had documentation proving that Dad had been in country.  Mom thought she had his orders somewhere at home, but she absolutely had letters Dad wrote about those experiences.  The woman told her to bring in whatever she could find.

My dad had just died and I was looking for something to do. I needed some way to focus my grief outside of myself. I’m a writer. I did a little research.

And then I got pissed off.

I learned some of what Mr. Hogan writes about, but on a more introductory level. I didn’t dig too deep into the chemical compounds. I didn’t know Agent White was a thing. I didn’t look for information about conditions in South Vietnam. All the further I got was an introduction to Agent Orange. That was enough information to send me through the roof. But, what do you do with this information after the fact? What could I do now? I wasn’t a Veteran, so I had no real life experience to tie this information to. I’m not a scientist and much of the chemical compound information Mr. Hogan talks about goes right over my head. My dad was already gone and I couldn’t talk to him about his experiences (not that he was likely to talk about the war anyway).

The anger did get me through the funeral, so it was helpful in that way. I knew I wanted to write about this and I spent some time writing memories of my dad. I wrote a couple of small things about Agent Orange, but mostly just as information to share with my mom and brother. Time kept marching on and life kept happening and I eventually started the writing project that spawned this blog.

But now I feel like I need to revisit this place in history. I need to revisit Dad’s death and his time spent in Vietnam. Maybe I just needed to wait a bit, for the raw emotions to scab over and begin to heal.

Maybe I needed someone or something to give me a little nudge.

So, Faith is going to the back burner right now. (Sorry, girl, but I’ve got this thing I have to get off my chest first.)

I’m not sure what it’s going to turn into. Maybe it will simply be a family history story that my niece can keep to remember her bumpa’s military service as she begins her own (she has begun her service in the Air National Guard). But maybe my dad’s story will turn into something bigger. Maybe it will become a book that will go out there into the world. Maybe it can become part of a larger cautionary tale about the evils of war.

All I know right now is that I have to write it.

dad

 

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Looking for Representation

The book is finally ready to be sent out to agents in the hope that I will find someone who loves the story as much as I do. Certainly I expect there will be edits and I’m excited to take that next step. If we can make the story stronger, let’s do it.

I sent a query to an agent who is looking for historical women’s fiction and I hope she will be the perfect fit. I don’t know how long it might take to hear from her and I’m both thrilled and terrified at the same time. It brings back all of my self-conscious fears ~ what if the book just sucks?

To distract myself and stay out of my own head, I’m turning my efforts to Faith to get her story started.

Wish me luck!

 

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