I recently was diagnosed with anemia. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I knew I had been tired for a long time, but I also knew I had a brutal schedule. I teach 12th grade English, am an adjunct instructor two nights a week, I freelance for a technical writing firm, and I also work as a server at a hotel downtown. Top that off with a thirty minute commute from my house to any of those places.
I am often tired.
One night I had an epiphany that all of my friends were doing things after work that I just didn’t have the energy for. I forced myself to do a lot of it. I have forced myself to get to work a lot of the time. My motivation rests in being independent and reliable, but I wasn’t doing anything well. It’s no surprise, considering how busy all of my minutes in life were. But I felt like there was something else missing.
At my annual physical, I requested a blood workup to see if there was something wrong. I considered that it could be my thyroid because that is something that most of my siblings have dealt with, but the doctor wasn’t concerned with that. She thought maybe anemia, and I thought maybe anemia too. I mean, I hadn’t been able to donate blood recently because they called me “iron deficient,” which simply meant that I was just a bit low on hemoglobins.
My bloodwork came back with a count of 9 hemoglobins per unit of blood. Two years prior, I had changed my birth control method to a copper IUD, which was pretty great, except that I was on my period every 26-28 days for 5-7 full, heavy days. I went through boxes of tampons. It was awful. In the last few months before my anemia diagnosis, I was starting to skip work activities, and I would stay in sweats for the first three days and sleep. I’d get up, go to the bathroom, walk to the living room and turn around and go back to the bathroom. I rejected dates, I skipped dinner events, and for the first time in adulthood, I bled through my jeans while I was at work.
Fortunately for me, my new doctor was caring and efficient. She went to work for me. She put me on an iron regimen, suggested I change my birth control, and asked me to slow down. Nobody ever looks at me in the eye and tells me, “Elizabeth, you need to slow down.” Instead, they look at me like I’m crazy and they shake their head. They might tell me to chill out, but they don’t scare me into it, that’s for sure. It appears I need the fear of death to make it real.
That’s the problem with anemia. Many, many women, and men too, have had it. And they’ve been successful at continuing to do things. I was still relatively successful at doing things. But when I told Dr. Friedman that I was still playing outfield on top of all of my work, she had to work at steeling her face when she looked at me. “You are very close to critical, and you need to slow down.” I’ll never forget that. It did scare me. She was the sweetest thing ever, but she was worried.
My brother is a Colo-Rectal Surgeon. He wasn’t worried. “Oh, 9 hemoglobins? No problem. You’ll be fine. That’s not so bad.”
I told Dr. Friedman that he said that. “He probably sees far worse in his line of work, and so he’s right. You will be fine, but for right now, you are not in the best shape. Your body is only able to create juvenile red blood cells before it expels them during your monthly cycle. It needs time to let those cells grow.”
She encouraged me to consider not only changing birth control, but having an iron infusion, taking time off from work, and maybe even taking a season away from softball. What? Unheard of.
I kept doing all of the things I was doing, only now, I was taking about ten different vitamin and mineral pills a day. Then, Jessica called and asked me to dinner. Jessica is one of my closest friends and has been since high school, but we go months, and sometimes, even years without speaking, only because we both are so busy in life raising children, working, navigating this thing we call life. But we met, and when I said anemia, her face dropped. She had experienced it too, and she knew first hand the gravity of the situation. She understood my desire to just sit down on the sofa and fall asleep in front of the tv, half dressed, if I must. She understood my lack of desire to feed myself, to even shower sometimes. She got it that I pushed myself in the outfield, but that more and more, I was almost willing to sit on the bench and let someone else play. What she also understood was how emotionally devastating all of that was to me, partly because she has known me forever, but partly because she understands my drive to be the best, and the most, and the powerful. But she also understood that anemia is actually a silent killer and it kills all of the best things in life, if you survive it. Most people do survive it. But what most other people don’t understand, is how it destroys the quality of life in its host.
It's been a couple of months since my doctor let me off the iron regimen and I am a different woman. I can look back and see how low my quality of life was. I think about how other women deal with this and don't understand what they are experiencing, maybe because they don't have good health care, or maybe they don't know to look. I know that I didn't really care much about living or dying anymore. Things didn't hold the color that they do now. I was existing on this plane of neglect and fatigue, and all I wanted was a big fat steak and a bottle of red wine. Every single day. Anemia is no joke. It will destroy you if you don't know it's there, and that is the problem. It's silent, patient, and toxic.
If someone you love is iron deficient, help them figure out a way to take their pills, eat their spinach, and rest when they need it. They can't help it, and they probably don't want to take the iron. It makes you feel nauseous if you don't do it right. Research it, support their health, and by all means, check in on them. Anemia will destroy everyone around an anemic if we don't pay attention.
Get your blood checked, homies. Love you, and, I'm back.
I'm sweltering on a boat in a cove in Honolulu, HI. My brother’s boat is moored at a small marina that is full of these beautiful yachts, catamarans, trimarans, and a variety of others, and I’m goal setting.
All my life, I’ve loved the ocean. I should have been born a mermaid. Several of my novels are set on or near the water, and there is always a character who longs for the waves. That’s probably because that is how I live my life, even though I’m land-locked in sweet little New Mexico. Hey, retirement is just around the corner. I can go wherever I want once that kicks in.
Iz just came on the radio, and I’m reminded of college, and a time when I was convinced that my life direction led me to yacht living. Little did I know that life had other plans. For a time. Maybe I am still heading in that direction, but I took a deserted path first. When Frost wrote about the two roads, I think he meant that either could be good, but it is what we make of it.
At any rate, I feel inspired again, and I have plans, people. I’ll never be made of money, but I don’t intend to let that stop me. Trust me when I say that most of the guys around here aren’t made of money, either, but they live a life they don’t regret. They have the sun, the pre-dawn mist, the parrot fish chewing on the keel, and within walking distance is a little watering hole. Who can ask for more? I understand Margaritaville now.
My favorite spot on this boat is the net that hangs between the hull and the third pontoon. I feel a little like I’m on a hammock, but more, I feel suspended in reality in a space where I am cool enough, peaceful enough, and if I’m lucky, I can watch the Naval Base send their jets out. Today, it was 6. Yesterday, 4. Both days, a C-130. I feel fortunate, calm, at peace, and happy.
It’s time to write again. Mahalo, folks.
It's been a long time since I posted...for those of you looking, I apologize. I've been working through some stuff, kind of writing, definitely doing a lot of work and a lot of healing and a lot of soul searching. I learned I had anemia, so I have a whole (lengthy) essay about that to post, but that's my excuse. I'd be so tired most of the time that I only had time for what I had to do. And, well, writing and blogging, as much as I felt I needed to do it, just had to be put aside for a bit.
Right now I'm working on a textbook project and I've been traveling a lot, so I'll get this blog updated as soon as I can see the light. I'm healthy once again, and I have tons of energy (which has been a LONG time in coming) and I'm very happy. In the meantime, have a fabulous day, and look for a barrage of posts soon! I miss this place!
I'm also giving you a Hawaii teaser below. Such vibrancy. I'm blessed.
Peace out, homies.
I have been talking about writing for a long time, and I've been writing for even longer. I used to hustle the freelance gig a bit, but Aidan was little, and it was far easier to take on a more permanent role as a sports writer for the local newspaper than it was to actually hustle articles for larger assignments. I'd had a few published here and there in various small outlets, but it was no big deal, and I definitely wasn't making a lot of money. It was almost more work than it was worth, and Aidan was seriously, just a little kid. So I took on more jobs as adjunct instructor instead. More money, fewer hours, but it did mean I was out of the house a lot. It also meant he was able to spend more time with his dad. In many ways, it was a win-win for all of us.
But I'd put freelancing aside. And recently, I've been so busy spinning my wheels in so many directions that I just haven't given the hustle much thought. Until the other day when I tried something my colleagues suggested in the classroom with newer technology.
Then I wrote an essay about it. Then I wrote a query. Then I submitted it. Then it was published.
This happened pretty much in the course of a single day. I'm mind-blown right now. I am so energized, excited, proud, and happy. I used to read this online magazine when I first became an adjunct instructor and was always a little nervous to submit. I mean, what could I possibly have to share with others? Well, it turns out, the person I've been reading since I was a young mom teaching at ITT Technical Institute decided that I had written a good enough essay to publish. One of the people I've most admired from afar, sent me an email that said it was "magnificent." Holy moley. Talk about an ego boost.
So that's what has happened this week. And I'm on fire.
Here is the link if you would like to see it. AdjunctNation is the source, and trust me, they are strong advocates for better pay for those of us who are on the frontlines at most universities.
"Using iMovie to Help Students More Deeply Engage with a Text"
I’ve been so busy. I have been writing like the wind, Bullseye, but nothing is any closer to resolution than it was a day, week, or month ago, except for about 3 food blog posts and 3 essays I hope to submit for publication. I am making a ton of progress, though. Stuff is coming together, and it’s exciting. Stinkbug is taking so many twists and turns: things I hadn’t intended, in fact. I mean, that novel is telling itself. I was a fool to think I could have it finished by January, and now that January has come and past, I’m a fool to think it will be done by Spring Break. I haven’t even allowed a soul to read it. One student read 2 paragraphs, and that was the extent of it. It’s got its flaws, but it’s so much fun to write. I’m enjoying it.
I have been writing for Hotel Andaluz. Writing about food has been incredible. I mean, I’m eating amazing foods and pairing them with wonderful wines. I’ve covered several dishes, and this weekend, I’ll be interviewing Chef Marc Quinones, an award winning chef who runs the kitchen at Mas Tapas Y Vino in the Hotel Andaluz. I’m very excited about that. If you want to read some of what I’ve written, you should look at that blog at https://hotelandaluz.com/category/food-beverage/
But in other news, I’ve had the State Student Council Conference (amen. Come and gone. That’s my spring marker until I get to Prom). That kept me busy for the last few months, and thank goodness, I’ve had good kids who have made it easier. We were very successful in a lot of ways. We earned another Gold Student Council of the Year, and next year, we hope for Platinum. We earned 3rd place Judges’ Choice for a project based on my Discovery in Georgia: Coastal Cleanup. That was extraordinary. But even better? A 2nd choice Delegates’ Choice for that same project. Jasmine made this gorgeous board that earned that honor. The kids wrote up a great summary after Discovery last year. We’ve learned a lot, and next year, we hope to do even better at Eldorado for NMASC. We just keep getting better.
I began a reading challenge to complete 52 books in a year, and I’ve successfully read 3. I threw one out, and I have 5 that I’ve begun. One is actually from the 1980s: Iacocca, and I love this book.
And…I COMPLETELY forgot to tell you that I spent this most amazing weekend in Paris. France. That is Paris, France, people. I will have to devote an entire separate post to that, however, because it just is too exciting to try and do quickly here.
The best thing about Waffle House is the diversity it attracts.
When Aidan was 10 or so, we had our first Waffle House dinner. I was out of energy, it was late, we still had another thirty minutes before we would be home, and he was hungry. I’m pretty sure it was after I had taught a late class and he hadn’t eaten since before the class around 4:30 or so. He was grumpy. And it’s cheap. So we stopped there. And Aidan met a vagrant who didn’t treat Aidan like a kid and who told him a story about something that made Aidan laugh, and so I bought the guy his dinner and Aidan was hooked forever after.
That’s Aidan’s go-to ever since. He insists he will own one at some point in his life. From what we understand, that means he has to work in management there for at least seven years, but that is a point conveniently overlooked. I think he just likes the diversity of people who go there. Waffle House isn’t the classiest of joints, and sometimes, especially in Albuquerque, there are some hard cases, both on staff and as guests, but what’s most interesting about that place is that there is always someone who is willing to talk to you. And so when you’re lonely or need some interesting conversation, Waffle House is the place to go. Trust me on this one. Of course, you have to be open minded enough to let that type of interaction happen.
Aidan meets all kinds of people there. He’s given more of his money away after buying someone dinner than I can add up. He’s given company and conversation, and he's helped a lot more people than I can imagine. I know Aidan grows from these experiences. For him, it’s a way of giving back some of the blessings he’s experienced in his life. He knows he’s got it good, and going to Waffle House helps him remember that.
Everybody needs a hand up sometimes. I think Aidan feels closer to God in Waffle House than he does when he’s in church. He once told me, “His mysterious ways are our compromising acts of kindness.” Aidan’s compromising acts sometimes set him back a tank of gas or two. I don’t blame him much. I am proud of him, honestly. It doesn’t mean I don’t worry when he offers somebody a lift or whatever, but he’s a generous guy. He will be repaid in the kindnesses he bestows. And maybe God’s mysterious ways do manifest in the ways we compromise our own selves. Maybe it takes time for that to become clear for any of us.
Maybe, in fact, it's been too long. I've been very distracted. I committed to finishing a new novel that I began writing in August, and I'm just not getting it done. It's a pretty constant desire--this thing called writing--but it turns out I'm not as good at it as I think. Or maybe it's just that I'm not as good at focusing the time it needs. But then again, I'm almost constantly writing something or other on it. It just keeps churning. I just keep spinning it. The details keep evolving. But the plot? I have major self-doubt.
I'm almost there. I thought I was about there two months ago. I wasn't. It turns out, I tricked myself and spun a new corner. So I will keep writing until it's done, and then I'm going to have to start revising. Stinkbug will happen. Very soon.
Sometimes when I check my email on the weekend, especially near a progress reporting time, I kick myself. I love teaching. I HATE grading. Students submit things at different times and in different ways, even when the expectations are outlined, and because I tend to be TOO flexible in that regard, I hear complaints and get the "why did I get a zero?" message. I use zeroes as place holders. I almost always let kids make work up, especially if it tanks their grades. But it doesn't mean I like the process.
My beef? Be in class, do your work, get your job done, and then let me do mine. And if you are going to take YOUR sweet time doing your job? Let me take mine. But it doesn't work like that. It doesn't matter if I were to be completely on top of it. I will never please everyone. Sometime around October, I definitely quit trying. Every year.
What I definitely do know is that being a writer and being a writing teacher are two very different things, and only one of those two things really lights my heart on fire. Stories, however, are the kindling. The reviews? not always so much. Anyway, it's late, and my metaphor is failing. I will say that I will NOT be checking email until Monday morning, and I may not grade another paper until then, either. But I've got some words to put down, so I better get crackin. I'm on my milly track.
2 words: Blackstone’s Hotsprings. The definition of the best overnight trip in New Mexico.
I have not been as happy as I was this weekend in a very long time. The most incredible getaway spot in New Mexico exists just hours from my home, and I think it may have changed my life. Let me just say that the level of relaxation that I reached was unparalleled. And I promise, the hardest drug I took was a second pint of pilsner at the local brewery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
The bed was definitely something out of a fairy tale--soft cushioning and even fluffier covers. The tub was like a magical portal to warm-water-land, and the private patio where I sat to cool off after my first bath was probably the icing on the cake. It was amazing. It wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth every single penny that I spent on it. I would return. I want to return. I want to sit and soak and write and read and do this weekend over again. I loved it. I’m not ready to be back in the real world.
Blackstone’s has only a few bedrooms, but it also has “public” private pools that several people can enjoy at once. But only if you want them to. Since it was my birthday, I was able to partake in a free soak in one of those outdoor pools. To tell you how absolutely incredible this weekend was is to define a moment in the beauty of life that most people never even come close to seeing. It helped that the weather was just incredible. Soft cottony clouds in a bright blue sky cooled the heat of the afternoon, and early in the morning it rained, making tinny sounds on the patio roof. If I didn’t know better, I might tell you I died and went to a corner of heaven.
Clearly, I recharged, but my body is in stress withdrawals, so I’ve been a little testy today. It doesn’t help that yesterday was still summer and today is full on winter, but I also wish I had just a few more hours down there to feel it all over again. Do yourself a favor. Visit Blackstone’s. You won’t regret a second of it.
I’ve dated a few men in my life who have appeared to be supportive of my writing career—for as long as it took them to get something from me. That support never lasted long. I don’t think a lot of people take me seriously as a writer, even when they read my stuff. They pretend to, for sure, but when the rubber hits the road, the real story is that they don’t see me as anything more than what they’ve created as an image of me.
I am reflecting on this because of some things someone very important to me has said a few times over the last couple of years.
When I finished my first book, Fires at Christmas, he was my man. He was also on the way out the door, as far as that role. It was January 15, 2017, and I had struggled over that book for about ten years. I know now that I learned many lessons from writing it, and a lot of it is junk, and a lot of it can be salvaged, but no matter what, it was my first completion. I was thrilled. And he was blasé. He was completely devoid of any real support or energy. It broke my heart. About a week later, he walked out the door.
I was just rereading some of the work I had been creating around that time, and it is clear to me that I was aware he was leaving, but the leaving still shattered me. At any rate, his apathy was painful. So I set some goals on my own, and some of them I achieved, even though I was depressingly depressed. I was pretty destroyed, in fact. I worked hard to overcome that. I recently saw him and I was talking about my next book, Chattering Swallow. I mentioned the name of one of my characters—Quillon, and his nickname is Q. That man that I had put so much energy into told me my choice for names was “gay.”
Now first, I’d rather he used a different way to denigrate my decision for a name, but that’s beside the point. My choices for names have purpose and meaning. I knew a Quillon once, who was the sweetest, kindest and most thoughtful person I had ever met. And I lost him many years ago. And while I never called him Q, my teammates, who I have a strong affinity for, call me Q. So that’s why I chose that name for an important character in this book. What he probably was reacting to, is that the man in the novel is modeled after him, and I destroy him in my book. The name was denigrated, but that’s because the human model was relegated to pain and misery in my world building.
Another man, in another time of my life, also chose to tell me the name of one of my very important, and very powerful characters was “gay.” Now, I’m not really sure why this is their insult of choice. I know a lot of really great and powerful gay people, and I could care less what their sexuality is. But I suppose if one’s masculinity is threatened, then that might have something to do with it. At any rate, my lesson.
I have decided that the names I choose are just that: names I choose. Nobody else gets to pass judgment. My son’s best friend’s girlfriend is pregnant and they did their gender reveal yesterday. I asked what they are going to name her, and he told me Kalani. And I passed judgement. But I don’t want to. That’s not my role. This little Kalani will have a couple of wonderful people in her life, and Kalani she will be. I’ll be a great auntie and love her anyway.
So name haters can eff off. We choose names because we like them, or because they have meaning. And that should be good enough.
Wanted: a good set of sentences to grab you from the depths of the internet. I keep trying to catch your eye.