As you can see, I'm not a mister. And the bunny in my photo is Lola Rapunzel. However, there is a real Mr. Harry Buns. He will make an appearance later. I am a wife, mother and full-time caregiver who entertains myself with writing, needlecrafts, art, graphic design and hopefully soon, amatuer astronomy. (Yes, I do own a telescope.) I would love to connect with other caregivers, but anyone who enjoys the ramblings of a grouchy crazy woman is welcome to visit.
Early in October 2019, I attended a writer’s workshop
presented by Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America. The guest speaker
was Kristen Lamb. The morning workshop covered antagonists, and the
afternoon’s, social media. When I said I need resocialization, I wasn’t
kidding. I’m not exactly technically challenged; but other than Pinterest and
two blogs I wrote for my own entertainment, I’ve avoided social media like the
Ms. Lamb recommends developing your brand before attempting
to publish a book, so here I am. The first time I saw something on building
your brand, it was on the cover of a Tiger Beat magazine at the grocery store
checkout, a few years ago. I nearly died laughing at the idea of tweens and
teens building their brands. Well, who’s laughing now? Not me.
Ms. Lamb recommends using your own name, which I totally agree with. The only problem with being a late comer, ahem, excuse me, late bloomer? Turns out I seem to have a million doppelgängers. While setting up this blog, I used mrharrybuns as my user name. Not so much because I was trying to be cute, but out of sheer desperation. Imagine my surprise and relief to discover it wasn’t taken. If there is a person out there named Harry Buns, I’m guessing they aren’t copping to it on the internet. The same goes for my blog title. Apparently, no one wants to come right out and admit they’re middle aged either. Besides, Ms. Lamb recommended I capitalize on my rabbits, because they’re cute and fuzzy (very fuzzy). Since they are going to be a part of this endeavor, we may as well designate them board members. I would like to introduce the CRO (Chief Rabbit Officer). Meet my Buns…
Buns is the first of my rabbits and was a Humane Society shelter adoption. I brought him home Feb. 13, 2013. Who says 13 is unlucky? I believe he celebrated a birthday recently, making him seven years old now. He may be a purebred Lionhead, though I can’t confirm that either. According to the shelter, someone found him loose in their neighborhood. He used to be a bit feisty when I first brought him home. Can’t blame him really. Life on the streets is hard. He settled in eventually, and is now my little buddy, kind of like Gilligan.
Yes… yes, I did. You thought this was going to be blog
about my journey as a novelist, and insights on the craft of writing. In the
immortal words of Lord Dark Helmet “Fool you!” (Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs)
Well, maybe a little bit. I have written a novel and
will eventually want to send my baby out into the great world. Hopefully to
land on a best seller list or two. Storyteller and writer have been a part of
who I am for most of my life. But they aren’t the only part, and certainly
aren’t the most important.
If you read my first post, you will notice an
over-riding theme. Mentioned at the beginning, and again at the end. Which is a
nifty writer’s trick, by the way.
I fell into professional caregiving out of necessity.
It is not a career path generally chosen by creative types, though I knew many
nurses who had creative pursuits; such as cross-stitching, knitting, crocheting
It can be a profession which generally pays better
than some, but it is never one you go into expecting riches. Unless you attend
medical school and do the residencies, to become a fancy-pants surgeon. With
the high cost of said schools, and the outrageous debts people graduate with
these days, being a rich doctor who golfs in the afternoon is no longer a
given. So, I must tip a hat to all the people who enter the medical and
caregiving professions. You will never be paid the compensation you truly
deserve, for your compassion and hard work. Thank you.
Ultimately, I ended up working as a Nurse
Assistant/Ward Secretary for nearly ten years. I encountered a few family
caregivers, especially working in a small-town hospital. Just because their
loved one, usually a spouse, had an issue which could not be handled at home,
didn’t mean the caregiver got a few days of vacation. Usually, they were at the
hospital the entire day, during visiting hours, often doing much of their loved
one’s care. Or at least assisting with it. I would go home at the end of my
shift, grateful no one in my young family needed such intense help.
Ah, but fate can oftentimes be cruel in ways you don’t
expect. Less than 10 years after I went into what I considered my true
profession, my husband, Karl, injured his back while preparing for deployment
in Iraq. That was in 2006. A common complaint for most disabled veterans is the
way their employer treats them when they are hurt on the job. It is not the
main purpose of this blog to complain about our government; but it does bear
mentioning, that it makes the role of a caregiver even more difficult, when you
also have to worry about keeping a roof over your family’s head.
My husband’s injury involved 13 herniated disks and
nerve damage to his right leg, right arm and shoulder separation. Because he
was not receiving the disability compensation he was owed, in a timely manner,
he had no choice except to return to his teaching position. All teachers spend
a lot of time on their feet, and music teachers spend almost an entire day on
It goes without saying, Karl’s injury was never
properly addressed by the Navy or VA Medical System. I recently saw a news
story about a man’s emergency surgery for one herniated disk. The hospital
surprised him with a $600K bill, which his insurance refused to pay. After he
complained, they graciously lowered it to $200K. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek
as I write this. Little wonder the government can’t pay to fix 13 of them.
Due to continuing degeneration in his back and an
undiagnosed neurological condition which causes constant headaches, Karl was
forced to leave teaching in 2011. He was 44 yrs. old. That is a really young
age to be forced into medical retirement. In 2010, I started working at the
same school Karl taught at, running the copy machines and helping him with his
after-school activities, such as setting up and breaking down concerts; since
he did not have an assistant. My help was mostly off the clock. Finally, in
2013, at the end of the school year, I left. I wasn’t being paid enough to
justify leaving him home alone, to fall on the stairs. I would be making even
less once Obama Care went into full effect.
The funny thing about caregiving, is you don’t realize
how many of us there are, until you become one. I have actually been surrounded
by caregivers. My mother-in-law for my father-in-law who had Alzheimer’s; my
uncle for both of my grandparents; one of my husband’s brothers, and his wife,
for my mother-in-law; and a friend in Iowa who has now cared for a grand total
of four people, including both of his parents. I may know a few more, if I
think about for a bit. The biggest reason I can’t remember them right now? I
haven’t seen or heard from them in a while.
Which brings us to the hardest part of being a
caregiver. Despite all the support information and attention being given to the
issue, we’re still largely invisible to society. Until you happen to see us
sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s or therapist’s office. Even though my
husband is still somewhat ambulatory, he is in pain 24/7. He has little
patience for socializing these days, never mind going out into society, which
is increasingly losing respect and empathy for others. It goes without saying,
we don’t leave the house much. That’s true for many caregivers, often because
of the sheer logistics required just to leave the house. Especially if their
loved one uses mobility equipment.
I will be the first to admit I could benefit from
resocialization. I have a few hobbies which could actually get me out of the
house for a bit, such as knitting and crocheting. Other than the Bolivian lady
who taught me to knit, I’ve always done that as a solitary endeavor. As a
de-stressor, I usually work on a project between the other things I have to do.
We live in a large urban area. Driving somewhere else to knit would have the
opposite effect of de-stressing. It might be worth it, if I taught some
classes. I have been knitting and crocheting for more than 30 yrs., but the
time it takes to prepare a class is an issue.
So, why return to writing then? Part of it is the
social aspect. I am also a fine artist and amateur photographer, in addition to
being a graphic designer. Some of those folks will occasionally get together
and discuss craft, and issues which affect their ability to make a living. But
writers? They are the true herd animals of the creative world.
Not long after I revived my nearly dead book of 30 yrs.,
I looked up the closest chapter of Romance Writers of America. I knew RWA had a
chapter near where I live, before we moved here. They meet once a month. And
unlike a knitting class, where I am on someone else’s schedule, I plan to
publish my books indie. While I do have financial goals for my writing, I am on
my own schedule to release a book. I am also a control freak, which puts indie
publishing right up my alley. Nor does it hurt, I’m a big box of crayons kind
of gal and can make use of my other skills. Instead of letting them go dormant.
It could be an interesting journey, and like all
journeys, they are most enjoyable when undertaken with friends. Just ask
Dorothy. Why else did she collect all the rejects of OZ, as she skipped down
the yellow brick road?
Quote of the Week
Why buy the entire burrito, when you only want one
For a hook, this line might not be as compelling as “Once upon a
time…” or “On a dark and stormy night…”. However, it is perfect to begin sharing
my odyssey as a writer.
Once upon a time, (sorry, couldn’t resist) I was a
twenty-one-year-old wife wishing to make a career change. What? At such a young
age? No, it didn’t involve leaving my husband of one year.
To help pay the bills, I took a job as a nurse assistant in a
nursing home. While a nice private facility which paid better than minimum
wage, it was still a difficult place to work. Especially when you are a
sensitive, creative soul who might weigh 100 lbs. wet. Many of the residents
were bigger than me, and not all of them appreciated the assistance, most
especially those with dementia. After nearly a year of employment there, I
longed to find another job with fewer physical demands and fewer opportunities
to have my feelings hurt, simply because I was trying to help someone.
My husband and I married in the late 1980s, just a few years
before the internet started becoming widely available to everyone. It wasn’t
unusual to find a computer or two in an office (no, they didn’t have Word yet),
but you could still find many typewriters perched on secretaries’ desks. I took
typing in high school, but funnily enough, it wasn’t my best subject. Many of
the office jobs I found in the local classifieds required applicants pass a
typing test to be considered for a position. What to do…
On one of my weekends off, I perused the garage sale
classifieds. Fate smiled upon me. I found a listing with an electric typewriter
which supposedly still worked. The garage sale was in progress that very day,
so I dragged my husband out of the house to go typewriter shopping. Lucky me.
They still had the machine when we arrived, and as promised, it still worked.
It was even a recent enough model; typewriter ribbons could still be purchased
for it. Yeah! (Typewriters do not come with backspace or delete buttons. We had
white-out for that.) I wish I could remember what we paid for it, but I still
believe it was a bargain.
Now that I had my own personal typewriter, I could practice
increasing my typing speed in my free time. Surely, copying any old document
would do, right? Nope. In my brilliant, 21-year old mind, it made more sense to
write a romance novel while improving my skill. Bonus! Who doesn’t love a
Did my typewriter and novel writing get me out of my nursing
home job? Sadly, no. I worked there a little over two years, until we decided
to move from Nebraska to the town in NW Iowa, where my in-laws lived. Hubby was
a reservist in the military. He received orders to report in California for
two-weeks of training, then was supposed to leave for the Gulf War in Iraq and
Kuwait. We were expecting our older daughter at the time, and I didn’t want to
live four hours away from both sets of grandparents, with a baby.
My parents moved me during the two-week training period. Days
before it ended, the Gulf War did too. My husband just missed being shipped
out. Instead, he joined me in Iowa and found a new job at the Farmers Coop
lumber yard. I went back to work when our daughter was two months old, as a
nurse assistant in the local hospital.
I continued using that typewriter until 1993, when we purchased
our first home computer, complete with 3 1/2-inch floppy disk storage and
dial-up internet. Our younger daughter was born that same year.
Now a mother with two small children and a part-time job, the
novel writing had its challenges. I joined Romance Writers of America in the
latter half of the nineties, seeking support from others who would keep me
motivated and help me hone my craft. In 1997, I finally made that career
change, into graphic design, and within a year had a full-time position. Moving
to Texas in 2000 ultimately brought my novel writing ambitions to a halt.
Though the girls were still in elementary school when we first moved, it wasn’t
long before they entered middle and high school. I continued to work full-time
as a graphic designer. Hubby was an orchestra teacher with practices and
programs, before and after school. He also rejoined the military after 9-11.
He is now a disabled veteran, with a spinal cord injury, and I
am his caregiver. For a while now, I have been considering finding ways to
bring in additional income, without leaving him home unsupervised. A few months
ago, I had an idea and dusted off the novel I started 30 years ago. Made
perfect sense to my brilliant, 51-year-old mind…
Quote of the Week
Don’t be getting anyone’s knickers in a twist. It’s painful for