A to Z Challenge

Monday, July 30, 2012

Eating an elephant

My introduction to social media was a bit overwhelming at first. I had not taken in to account what all it entailed, and the first week or so was overwhelming. I never thought I'd ever have a twitter account, but here I am @BurnsMillie tweeting about my book, sharing news about my blog, sharing news about other writer's books and blogs, and trying to add friends (not just followers). Making those connections has been a fun experience and I'm slowly getting the hang of it all.

Blogging is another thing I never thought I'd do. Not that it was an abhorrent thought to me, I actually just didn't think about it. I have found it to be an enjoyable experience, and love meeting other people from around the world who are putting themselves out there, sharing their experiences and knowledge. This blogfest is a great example of meeting quality people who share similar goals, I'm so glad I came across it!

Goodreads has been a great investment in my time as well. I've found fellow author friends who are willing to help with amazon marketing efforts, and I've used the giveaway to help promote my book. Currently I have a giveaway that will end tomorrow. If you'd like to enter to win a free copy of Return of the Crown here's the link... http://ow.ly/cBhtT

Return of the Crown has it's own website. It's www.returnofthecrown.com It is in it's baby stages right now, but offers links to all the places you can find me. The plan is for it to grow into a fun place with games and book trailers and a myriad of things for fans of Ravyn, Blade and the rest of the gang.

Being an author, a wife, a mom of three, a Physical Therapist Assistant, the bookkeeper for my husbands business -- these things keep me just a little busy. My first child is leaving for college in a couple weeks -- I feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers and I'm frantic for just a few more grains to spend with her. I'm learning to weave my social media time in to my daily schedule. And making sure I step away and spend time with my family, my writing, and my other responsibilities.

What I found with all of this, is that I have to eat my elephant a little a day. Elephants are a bit chewy and too much elephant at once is hard to digest. So, I nibble a bit here and there to shrink that oversized meal into many smaller ones I can tolerate.

Friday, July 27, 2012

75 Word Stories, Say What?

When I pressed the send button on my book to share it with the world, I didn't fully realize all that I'd be doing. Who knew I'd have a twitter account, who knew I'd be blogging (And arr matey, hopping from one piratey blog to the next). Color me suprised. But, I can't really complain as it's actually been an enjoyable ride. I'm getting to know so many people, and I'm learning so much about writing, sharing, and marketing.

As I was perusing author's that I might want to follow on Twitter, I came across @lenaland or Helena Mallett. I thought her book 75x75=Flash Fraction was brilliant. It is basically this, 75 short stories that are exactly 75 words. No way, not possible. Now, while I'll admit that they are not stories per se...they are snapshots that get you thinking, laughing, or caring what happens next. In a mere 75 words.

I enjoyed the book very much and felt like I got plenty of bang for my bucks ($2.99 to be exact). I decided the next time I'm having difficulty coming up with what to write, I'm going to employ this idea for writing exercises and see where my words take me. Great idea for finding the most impactful use of words in a minimalist style.

Not all the stories had the same impact on me, but they were all well written. The first two in the book might still be my absolute favorite. One made me say "Awwwww." The other made me giggle. Helena tackled a wide ranging variety of topics. There's just about something for everyone.

I'm so glad that I have joined in this wonderful community of aspiring authors. I am learning and growing, meeting and sharing, and it's all been such a pleasure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Delicious Authors

Wow, sifting through 40 years of delectable reads...trying to pick my top all time favorites. There are so many different flavors of writing that satisfy different cravings. This is a doozy of a brain strain for me. But let me start at the beginning.

Dr. Suess! This is the man that inspired countless hours of giggles, for me as a little girl, and for me as a mother of three girls. My favorite book of his...One fish, two fish, black fish, blue fish...or maybe How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Delightful worlds where anything can and does happen. Imagination run wild, as it should be! It's like a crazy crock pot stew...you never knew what you'd be pulling out of it.

Roald Dahl! I remember pulling James and the Giant Peach off the bookshelf at the little library in Santa Cruz, and I new I had a treasure in my hands. I went home, climbed into my makeshift fort, and didn't emerge for days, okay, so I exaggerate...but I devoured the book, and felt so connected to James left at the mercy of his cruel aunts, poor little boy.

James Herriot! I read every one of these quaint novels about the life and work of an English countryside veterinarian. The descriptions of the countryside and the characters he wrote about (animal and human) drew me in. It satisfies the sweet tooth.

Piers Anthony! I wanted to go to Xanth so bad it's not punny, I mean funny. Loved these books, gorged on them, so to speak. So silly and lighthearted. Fun reads for young adults and adults that want to stay young : ) Warning, might give you gas!

John Steinbeck! I know most kids read of Mice and Men in high school english classes. I never did. I recently read it when it was assigned to my daughter to read. Loved the story and enjoyed the writing style. One of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons had new meaning to me...you know the one where the overgrown dog (I think) wants to grab him and squeeze him, and call him George. Those cartoonists were cleverer than I knew! : ) It's meat and potatoes.

J.R. Tolkien! Love, love, love! Amazing world of Hobbits and trolls, of men and dwarves. And the one true ring. Fantastic! Oh, to travel the world on a pony alongside the likes of Aragorn and Gandalf, to spend time (cause you'll need it) talking with the Ents. Like a pint of the finest Ale, this goes down so smooth.

Okay, so one last one. J. K. Rowling! This woman amazed me. We all know her story. Incredible. She is the one that got me thinking, you know, I can do this. She did it with far fewer resources than I have. We have been savoring Harry, Ron, Hermione, and my personal favorites Fred and George, for so many years in our house. I enjoy delving into the pages with my youngest Sierra. When the time is right, many years from now, I'll gladly introduce my Hagrid and McGonagall voices to my grandchildren. Harry Potter books are like those crazy candies from Hogsmeade, magical.

I could probably go on and on. I have read so many books over the years, and I have so many more waiting in my cupboard. Unlike Mother Hubbard, my reading cupboard is never bare. My plate is full to overflowing with tasty literary morsels.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I've been reading...

I have many books started that I'm part-way through, but have no idea when I'll get back to them. I believe the KJV of the bible is on my shelf (I think I got as far as the story of Noah) and I have the Dummie's guide to Social Media Marketing started. I have been attempting to read all the free classics that I either never read, or don't really remember. Recently finished Dorian Gray and Pride and Predjudice. Currently, most of my time is spent reading with my nine-year old.

Sierra, the aforementioned nine year old, has an absolute nutso fascination with sharks. This morning, I read Discovery Channel's 10 Deadliest Sharks, by Joe Brusha on Net Galley. I thought it was really neat as it was done in a comic book format. It had some random facts sprinkled in with stories of shark attacks of the various species. Sierra thought the pictures were cool, but that it lacked enough factual information. When I asked if she'd like a copy of it, she was sort of "meh" about it. Guess I'll save my pennies.

We just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and have since delved into The Chamber of Secrets. I absolutely love sitting down on the couch with my feet up, her long legs stretched out next to mine, and the book grasped betwixt our hands. We share read. I read a page and she reads a page. I absolutely love that my little miss is reading Potter with full on british accents. She's absolutely brilliant!

We also started a fun little story by a fellow indie author that I thought was rather clever. It's called Zombie Dog and it's by Charmaine Clancy. We got part-way in, and haven't touched it for weeks now. Overall, I think the story is fun and clever. The dialogue is realistic. Sierra seems to enjoy it too. The letdown is that there are quite a few grammatical errors that weren't caught in the editing, and they are distracting to me. I am so sad about that too, because it has such excellent potential. Sigh. We'll likely finish it, because I think I actually plunked down a few dollars for it, and it is a cute story.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aha? Where is that flippin' light bulb...

Sadly, to be honest, reaching far enough back for this lightbulb moment might take some meditating. Return of the Crown sat sad and lonely in a notebook first, then it became bits and bytes that lurked around a hard drive. It's been a long time coming, but so worth the wait.

I've always had a lot of energy, and with that came an extra large, will not fit the confines of one's head, amount of creativity. So naturally, I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember. When my older girls (who are now 18 and 20) were little, I got the desire to write children's books. And I wrote whenever I had some spare time. I wrote poems mostly, and funny stories, nothing with a serious tone. I devoured books on writing and practiced all the exercises. I sent some silly poems in to a contest for inclusion in a kid's poetry book, and got a very nice form rejection letter. Sigh. I think I still have that somewhere.

And, when I was finally a stay at home mom, and the kids were in school all day, I started writing Return of the Crown. I remember writing the original draft, pencil scraping across paper, fingers cramping, the plot and my characters gladly rushing to see the Light of day. I don't know where the inspiration came from, but the words rushed and tumbled to beat each other to the end of my pencil. And then, gasp, I put it away. I finished it, and just left it. Poor thing. I don't know that I really knew what to do with it. I do know, I didn't have enough faith in me. Over the years, I've pulled it out and edited, then put it away again. Countless times. Always it grew and gained strength, but I still had no clue how to proceed.

So that's my manuscript's sad story. A creation of inspiration and love, then betrayal by the one who loved it most. Reunion and renewal, more inspiration and growth. Lost again, left to moulder. Honestly, I don't know what my book sees in me, I'm a horrible parent.

As things started to change in the marketplace, I began to dream again. To see what the possibilities are, and my real Light bulb moment came. I brought my book to the Light and shared it with the world! It may never sell countless volumes, but that's okay. I had the courage to share it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Meet Ravyn...

Princess Ravyn, I know you're pretty busy, but could you spare a few moments? I have some friends who'd like to get to know you a little better.

Oh, Millie, it's you. I haven't seen you in awhile. But, I've been so busy rebuilding the city after my Aunt Zelera destroyed it, I hadn't noticed you weren't hanging around anymore. By the way, did you hear the news?

Which news?

Blade asked me to marry him! I'm so excited. I've never been happier. To think, just a few months ago I was living on that tiny little island out in the middle of nowhere. No cities, no magic, no books, just sand and surf.

That doesn't sound so bad, I know a lot of people that pay good money to vacation in places just like that.

Well, it was scary when I first landed there. Imagine if you'd been ripped away from everyone and everything you had known by magic. You are flung across the sea in a little ball of Light and deposited on an island. You walk all around the island and you don't see a soul. You are alone. And to top it off, you're just seven years old.

Yes, you were little, and yes, that would be very scary. But I think you are exaggerating a little. You weren't alone. What about Rowan?

Well, he didn't show himself to me for several days. Obviously, after he introduced himself to me, life got much better. In fact, the island became my home. I didn't want to leave. I was safe there, Aunt Zelera didn't know where I was, and Rowan, he's the best substitute father a girl could ask for.

Yeah, turning sixteen sort of shook your world up, didn't it.

Most definitely. It's funny. I grew up watching my mom when she was manipulating the Light, and I suppose that I knew I'd be gifted with the ability to work with it as well, but being isolated for so long, I'd forgotten all about it. It was pretty crazy when little magical things started to happen all around me. Lucky for me Rowan, who's an elf, has been around for awhile and knew all about the Light.

Ravyn, my friend's don't know what the Light is.

Oh, sorry. In Aigerach, that's my country, the Light surrounds every living thing. If you have the gift, you can "see" it. Each of us has different colors of Light associated with us...I think in your world you might call it an...aura? The Light can be manipulated to do wondrous things. Can you see the Light Millie?

No, I'm afraid I don't have that ability. I wish I did.

Oh, your Light strands are turqoise and a buttery yellow...so pretty. Mmm...and the scent associated with them is like salty sea air.

It smells?

Yes, usually the smell is pleasant. But the scent of the Darkness...it makes me retch just thinking about Aunt Zelera's magic...can we talk about something else. I'd really rather not think about her.

Sure. I understand. She is one nasty witch.

Millie, I don't want to talk about her.

I know, but why do you think she turned out like she did? Your mom is like a ray of sunshine and Zelera's so...vile.

I don't know. Jealousy, plain and simple. Or lack of self-worth? I guess she never felt loved. Now really, if you don't change the subject I'm going to leave.

Okay, I understand. I wouldn't want to talk about it either, if my aunt tried to kill me. Over and Over. She sure is relentless.

I'm getting up now.

Sorry Ravyn, I just think people might want to get an idea of what you were up against.

I see. Well, she's gone now. So let's not dwell on her.

Are you sure she's gone? For good?

That's what I was told. I have no reason to believe otherwise. Have you heard something?

Me? I don't know anything. So, anyway, I heard you met some really neat creatures along your journey. I personally love Ena, but I'm partial to dragons. My daughter Sierra liked the shark, but she loves all sharks. Shark week is big around our house, all year long. Do you have a favorite?

That's not fair, asking me to make that choice. Doing that could cause civil unrest. The harpies and unicorn are getting along very well right now thank you. And the wolves, well they just want to be left alone, as usual. And you know I've always wanted to go to Draconis Island and study the dragons. No, I just won't say.

So, you have a favorite...

Please, drop it.

Okay, so this shouldn't cause any civil war. You travelled all over Aigerach; through meadows, over mountains, staying in its quaint villages, etc. Where is your favorite place to be?

Anywhere Blade is.

That's a cheap answer.

No, it's not. I could be locked back in that dark dank cave again, but if Blade was there it would be heaven.

I know you, you have a lust for adventure. You're going to want to get out of the castle soon. Where will you head first?

I would love to go back to Draconis Island with Blade, it's a lifelong dream of ours. Ena is an amazing dragon, and I'd love to see how her babies have grown. Maybe when things quiet down around here, we can sneak away.

I imagine meeting Ena was pretty intense. Come to think of it, after you left Rowan on the island, you went from one harrowing experience to another. I know I got a few new gray hairs just chronicling your adventure. What was your greatest fear?

There were a lot of times I was a heartbeat away from death's door. That's to be sure. And I was scared witless on more than one occasion. But, I think the worst was my fear of failure. I didn't know if I was strong enough, or brave enough, or smart enough to save my parents, to save Aigerach. The world rested on my shoulders and any slip or stumble would send it all crashing down.

Well, I think you did a pretty good job.

I made plenty of mistakes along the way. But, one can't sit about crying over their mistakes. Besides, Princesses do not cry.

Umm, yeah, you do. You did on more than one occasion.

You know, you can be a royal pain.

(Smirk) A royal pain?

All right, I'm leaving now. It was really nice to meet you all. I believe Millie took the time to document my story, it's got all the nitty gritty details. I believe she said you could find out more about it at www.returnofthecrown.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

First paragraph of Return of the Crown

Connor shuffled to the Royal Coach, leaning a wrinkled hand on its glossy side, steadying himself. The King and Queen stood side-by-side waiting for his final report. Connor sensed the pervasive evil that clung to the air, throwing the safety of the royal family's trip in peril. How could he convince them to stay? King Bryant overflowed with bulldog determination, and he’d set his sights on making this trip. Blowing out a heavy frustrated breath, Connor looked up into his King’s eyes.

That's What She Said...It's True!

Ahoy there, me and me mate "T" were a bit late to the ship (tossing back a bit too much ale in Kingston), had to row a lot of leagues to catch up with ye. Let me introduce the little buccaneer to ye. Okay, okay, I'll suspend the pirate talk...for now:

1) You moved recently from Florida to Texas. What do you miss most about Florida? What do you like most about Texas

The thing I miss most are my friends and family. Not being able to visit the grandmas on any given weekend has been an adjustment and I can honestly say that I had cultivated the most perfect group of friends imaginable over the past seven years. Giving all of that up has been tough.
What I like most about Texas would be just about everything else. For the most part, Florida is a muggy swamp, infested with alligators and old people. The housing market is awful and the job market even worse. And don't get me started on the schools. I moved not only for a new job that paid nearly double with only half the responsibility, but to open the doors of opportunity for my son. Texas has welcomed me with nice people, good music, culture and great food. I'm pretty sure I've put on 20 pounds in the last few months, but luckily there are endless supplies of nature trails nearby. I also like the change of scenery and change of seasons. Sorry, was I supposed to pick only one thing? Ok, fine: the steak.

2) You have a young son. Describe your favorite memory of a time with your son.

I have so many, he's my everything. Every time I think I've just shared my favorite memory with him, he does something amazing that tops the previous thing. So...I guess I can share my most recent favorite memory from two weekends ago when we took a ride on the vintage railroad. Halfway to Ft. Worth, the train stopped as cowboys on horseback circled the train cars. The bandits boarded with pistols pointed and began to "rob" the passengers when the sheriff barged in and chased them off. Then a shoot-out with real guns (this is Texas, after all) and blanks started up outside as the bandits mounted up. As we watched all the the staged (and completely hokey) entertainment, you'd think my three year old son would have been so excited to see "real" cowboys... However, he was practically crawling out of the open window screaming, "Don't shoot the horses!" He's such an animal lover. It took the rest of the train ride to convince him that it was all pretend.

3) You mention on your blog, you've always loved to write. What's the first piece of writing you've done, that made you say, "Yeah, that's a nice piece of work."

I wrote a poem in 8th grade that I was pretty proud of. It was about my dog constantly barking at a garden snake that lived in our backyard. It rhymed and everything.

4) What is your favorite genre to read? Favorite genre to write?

It's a tie between horror and sci-fi. Luckily, my favorite author, Stephen King, writes both. I've tried to write both horror and sci-fi myself, but haven't gotten very far yet. Right now, it seems that autobiographical is my favorite to write.

5) Where do you see your writing taking you in the next five years?

I'd be pretty thrilled to have my memoir published, even self published through Amazon or something. And if that went well, maybe a collection of fiction short stories, too. I have a decent job, so I don't have any aspirations to become a full time author. I just want to share my stories and see what happens.

6) What is your favorite type of music? Do you listen to music when you write?

It's hard to put the music I listen to into a single type, but if I had to, I'd say indie rock. Before becoming a mom, I went to multiple live shows a week. I still listen to music as much as I can, even at a low volume in my office at work. But not when I'm writing. I focus the best in total silence.

7) What kinds of things do you like to do with your free time? (I know, working mom's don't get too much of that, but let's just say you have a few free hours, besides writing, what are you doing?)

Like most families in this country, we probably spend too much time shopping at Target. And like most couples, we probably spend too much time watching tv shows like True Blood, Hame of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Mad Men. However, in those rare moments I get completely to myself, I like to wander off somewhere I've never been and take photographs. Next to music and writing, photography has always been a passion.

8) Do you ever suffer with writer's block, if so, how do you fight it?

Yes, I have it right now! And apparently I'm fighting it by joining blog hops. :-)

9) Do you outline your stories, or wing it?

My memoir is based on my life, so I wing it. However, I got really stuck on my sci-fi short story WIP. I used a screenwriting outline called Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet, which has helped ensure that my story has a solid backbone. Now I just have to fill in the gaps.

10) Absolute, hands-down favorite movie of all time, and why?

I have about five that are all equally my favorites, but if I had to pick only one, I'd go with The Shawshank Redemption. It was the first movie to move me to the point of happiness, tears and anger to the point where I evaluated life as I knew it. It was a pretty big deal for a teenager who grew up on Friday the 13th movies and watching Legend twenty billion times. Plus, its a beautiful adaptation of my favorite author's work, which often isn't translated from page to screen very well.

11) How can we follow you (Links)?

I haven't updated my Goodreads account since I created it and I don't tweet, so you all are just stuck with my blogging for now, but there are two of them:


Thank ye kindly for taking the time to get to know "T".

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Argh, Matey Blog or Walk the Plank!

I joined this blogfest in an effort to learn more about this craft of blogging. I just recently published my first book, Return of the Crown. Right now, I feel like an itty bitty snowball at the top of the hill. Sales are slow, but gathering speed. I am learning to create a platform, and every little bit I roll down the hill, more snow sticks to me and I gain a little more know-how. I'm also getting to know some really interesting and talented people that are kindly helping me gather speed. My goal is to reach the bottom of the hill, fat with knowledge and friends...a base to build on, because everybody loves a snowman(with a cutlass, an eyepatch, and a parrot on his shoulder).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Helping Hand

This morning, I drove my hubby to the train for his daily work commute.  Just like I do every other day.  As I was driving up a long hill, headed back home, I saw a car coming downhill on the other side of the road swerve all out of control and drop down over an embankment.  My first thought, was someone had a heart attack or something.  My second worry, was that it rolled.

As I came up the hill a little further, I saw another car crumpled in the road.  Several witnesses had already pulled over and were rushing to the car on the road, but I didn't see anyone checking over the embankment.  I crossed the road, found a place to park, and carefully descended the hill to the blue SUV.  The car hadn't rolled.  Thank God.  I ran to the driver's side, avoiding the barbed wire that the car had tangled itself in.  The tires were popped, engine shut off.  The driver's window was partly down. 

I heard yelling drift down from the street.  "She just turned right in front of me.  I couldn't stop.  I don't know what she was thinking."  A young mom clearly still in shock, held her young son on her hip. 

I called up to the people gathered roadside, "Has someone called 911 yet?"  I was given an affirmative nod, as a cell phone was raised in the air.

I looked into the SUV, only a driver, no passengers.
"Are you okay," I asked.
A young woman was leaning back in the driver's seat with her hand to her head.  Her legs were shuddering, and her free hand was trembling.  "My head hurts," she mumbled.
I looked her over.  No blood to speak of, no obvious signs of broken bones.  The seatbelt wasn't latched across her chest.  "Were you wearing your seatbelt?"
"No, it's broken."
"Well, let's keep still until the paramedics get here."
She moaned a little, shivering and quaking. 
"So, what's your name?"
"Okay Amber, does anything besides your head hurt?"
"My arms hurt, but my head really hurts."  Her left hand was pressed against her face, and had been since I'd arrived.
The car faced directly into the sun so I put my hands in front of her to shade her eyes, "Amber, can you lower your arm, will you let me see your face?"
She lowered her hand slowly, a large goose egg was already beginning to grow over her left eye.  A tiny abrasion on the surface, but nothing else that seemed obviously serious.
"My head hurts so bad," she moaned again.  Her eyes darted around, then she cried, "I'm going to be in so much trouble."
"Shh, let's not worry about that.  Just sit still.  It's okay, you're okay."
"But, I don't have a license."  She moaned and closed her eyes.
"Amber, sometimes we make bad choices, and then we have to deal with the consequences.  But, that's not what we're going to worry about right now.  Right now, I'm going to just hang out with you until help gets here.  You are going to be fine."
"I need my phone, I need to call my friend."
I looked over her into the vehicle, "I don't see a phone.  What's it look like."
"It's small, it's white..." 
The first policeman arrived at my side at about that moment.  I explained that she had not been wearing her seatbelt, and I'd encouraged her to stay put till the firemen could get to her.  I also told him she was really wanting her phone, and would it be all right for me to look for it for her.  After telling me to be careful, he said if I wanted to look for it, it would be okay.
I went to the passenger side, and opened the door.  I found her phone wedged alongside her seat.  I gave it to her, and then told her she was now in good hands.

When something like this happens, it's funny how our judgement system is put on hold.  If I'd just heard about this accident, I'd probably have been thinking she was probably just some loser, unconcerned with others and with no sense of right and wrong.  It could even be the truth.  Obviously she is guilty of poor judgement:  driving without a license, most likely also without insurance, no seatbelt!  But, the mom in me today, just saw a scared little girl (I'm guessing she was in her late teens to early twenties), with no one there to support her.  I hope that I was able to provide her with some comfort and support today, and the mom in me also hopes that this did in fact teach her a valuable lesson.  Mistakes are a very valuable tool, as long as we learn from them. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again...

I have been a Physical Therapist Assistant for over 22 years...but I haven't worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant that whole time.   I have continued reading and studying topics that related to my field over the years, and kept my license current, thinking maybe someday I'd want to go back.  But as the time not working grew, I started to wonder if it'd be possible.  Would any clinic want me anymore?  I felt like my treatment skills were still there, waiting to be tapped, but who'd take a chance on me?

A few years back, well more like 13 years to be precise, I was frustrated by the changes that had been made to the billing of Medicare for the services of Physical Therapy.  I worked for a company that provided rehab in Skilled Nursing Facilities.  I was asked to treat my patients in groups, people that really needed one on one attention were shuttled down to rehab for a group therapy class.  It felt slimy and unethical to me.  I also ended up driving myself to two and three different facilities in a day to get in eight hours of work.  The magic of healing and caring sputtered out for me.  Lucky for me, we didn't need my income anymore, and I was able to do my husband's bookkeeping from home and be a full-time mom (which is about 20 jobs bundled into one).

2 out of my 3 children are now adults, as of a few days ago.  I only have my "little bit" to mother, and she's growing up too fast.  I know it'll be a blink of an eye before she's tossing her graduation cap in the air as well, and taking off for college, and leaving me home.  Alone.  So, my husband and I discussed me dipping my toes back into work as a Physical Therapist Assistant.  I signed up for a registry, not really thinking anyone would actually want me, I have been out of the field for some time. 

Lo and behold, I was wanted.  And, so, I grudgingly filled out all the paperwork, got a PPD skin test, took a drug test (my first ever, how exciting), and sent it all in.  I received a name tag, haven't had one of those in a long time, some timesheets, and the knowledge someone would call me soon.  A little tension developed in the pit of my stomach, but I'd just released Return of the Crown, and had a lot of other things to keep me distracted.  I didn't hear anything for awhile, and secretly was glad.  I know how to treat patients, that wasn't my concern, it was whether or not I'd find joy in the job and I had doubts about my ability to do the job too.  I can admit that, if I'm really being honest with myself.  I always like to give my best, be the best, and I'd want to be worth the money someone was spending for my services.  I absolutely didn't want to fail, to be a letdown to myself, my family, the company that dared to hire me...

Tuesday afternoon, I received a call to arms.  Was I available to work the next day.  Augh, yes, no, yes.  What I really said was as long as the facility knew I had been out for a long time and they were okay with it, I'd do it.  Committed.  Damn, they knew and were happy to have me. 

Wednesday I dropped my husband off at the train, came home to gather all my supplies (timesheet, nametag, gait belt, courage) and then headed across town to a Subacute facility that needed an extra hand for the day.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I left an almost entirely full cup of coffee in my car, that is VERY unlike me.  I am generally a very easy going person and it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers.  I honestly felt panicked, something I am unaccustomed to, and it was making me physically ill.  I was worried about what lay behind the glass doors of the facility, and whether or not I'd be productive enough, whether I'd find my way about, whether I'd be able to document patient levels correctly, whether or not I still had "it".

Fortunate for me, the therapists I worked with yesterday were all fantastic!  Such a supporting and friendly staff was my joy to encounter.  I was still nervous, I honestly thought I might throw up at one point.  But, I kept shoving the nerves back and paid attention to the new way of charting, all done on the PC.  I have mentioned it's been awhile since I've been in a clinic, right?  I sort of miss flipping through the chart at the nurses station, but, I think over time, I'll get to like the online charts just as well. 

As I was looking through the online charts, and trying to figure out my schedule, my nerves kept squirming around in my guts.  Finally I made a smart move.  I decided to just go get a patient, and let the charting fall into place later.  The Occupational Therapy Assistant asked if I would co-treat a patient with her.  Not sure if it was in sympathy for me, or if she really needed my help, but it was a great way to start my working day.  Back in the saddle again. 

I am happy to report, that I did indeed enjoy my day.  It was filled with a rehab therapists norms for any given day:  someone thought they were going to faint while walking (she was a large lady, and I absolutely did not want her to fall on my watch), a couple people didn't really want to do therapy (let's face it, going to PT is not on your list of fav's when you're sick and out of commission) but I was able to cajole them into it, patients genuinely appreciated the time and energy I poured in to them, someone else was sick  with a nasty fever, so I did let them off for the day.  Being able to work with the patients one on one, was fantastic!  Transfers, Gait, Exercises, Bed Mobility, Stretching...it's all good.

As I left the facility, I came away feeling optimistic about my first day back in the field.  There are things I wish had gone smoother, but I know the next time I go, I won't have to fight my fears as well.  I fought that battle and won!  Everything is coming back, skills are snapping back in place.  I got this.  I came home, played with my daughers, went to dinner, came home and fell sound asleep, exhaustion claiming me.  The beauty of registry is this, if I don't want to work, I can say no.  But, having had a nice first day out (after I finally calmed my nerves) I know I will say yes again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Sharks Attack!

Okay, so HOLY CRAP!  This picture caught my eye, and the story that went along with it as well.  I am always on the lookout for shark stories and pictures as my eight-year old daughter is a shark fanatic.  I don't know if this guy stained his shorts, but I don't think I'd want to borrow his kayak without it getting a good hosedown. 

Can you just imagine, here you are just soaking up the hot summer sun, toodling along the Cape Cod shore only to see everyone on shore waving at  you!  You think, wow, I'm a sexy beast.  No, dude not really.  You're a tasty morsel--and you're being stalked.

His arms have probably never pumped away at anything so fast after getting a good look at his new pelagic friend.  During an on camera interview he admitted to running out of the water like a little...child.  The way he paused when he said this, made me think he was going to say girl, which would've irked me.  Although I guess it could've been a compliment, as I know I would've run like lightning! 

At least this guy wasn't tossed out of his kayak, possibly the East Coast sharks are a little more polite than those out here on the West Coast.  On the same day, 07/07/2012, in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA (more specifically out toward Capitola) a fisherman is actually tossed out of his kayak by a Great White!  The big guy burst out of the water to eye his would-be meal as it bit into the nose of his kayak.    Lucky for him, other boaters nearby were able to pull him out of the briny deep before the shark had a chance to even get a nibble in.

These real-life tales reminded me of a scene from my newly released fantasy novel, Return of the Crown...http://ow.ly/c69Nv  

Without warning, a gaping maw erupted from the water as sharp teeth snapped an oar in two.  Ravyn shrieked falling back, the oars ripped from her grasp.  The raft lurched as the shark rammed it, rocking it wildly from side to side.  Its heavy tail slapped hard against the logs.  It disappeared beneath the sea, and Ravyn staggered to her feet, scanning about for signs of the creature.   A menacing fin sliced through the water, gathering speed as it neared the raft.  Ravyn lurched to the mast, clutching it for dear life.

The creature slammed into the raft, sending the whole vessel teetering on its side.  Ravyn’s feet slipped out from beneath her, and she felt herself dangling like bait on a hook.Supplies flew in all directions, and Ravyn’s pack sailed through the air. Clinging to the mast with one hand, she snapped her other hand out snagging the strap of the pack.  The raft hung crazily on its side for an instant before crashing back onto the water.

So anyway, if you're out and about at the coast, either one it seems, just look about for seals.  If you see any of those plump lil cuties nearby, you should probably keep your feet in the sand.  Sharks aren't really looking to eat humans, at least that's what the experts say.  Of course, I'm not sure how many sharks have been interviewed on this subject...the interviewers never return from their appointments.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pubic Symphysis Disorder (PSD) Sucks!

Pubic Symphysis Disorder, what the heck is it?  Pubic Symphysis Disorder occurs to some pregnant women when the hormone Relaxin in their systems does its job too well.  Normally this hormone is a hero as it is responsible for softening the ligaments of your pelvis which allows for the birth of your bundle of joy.  Sometimes however, this process of loosening is kicked into overdrive and the pubic bones start to shear against each other.  As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.  It causes pain so intense, it's like thousands of knives stabbing into your groin, over and over.  One wrong move brings tears to your eyes and steals away your breath.  Anyone who has ever experienced this is cringing at the memory.  If you are reading this, because you are going through this right now, I know how you feel.  I've been there.  Keep reading about how I dealt with this condition and maybe you'll find some hope.

I suffered with this pain two out of my three pregnancies.  During my first pregnancy I had been swimming laps (approximately three times a week) before I got pregnant and continued to do so.  For the most part, I did not have any difficulty with my pubic joints, unless I had been squatting down doing gardening or had walked a lot of stairs.  Then, the pulling on my pubic joint would cause such pain I could hardly walk for hours.  When I asked my doctor about it, he said stop doing what was aggravating it.  Well, duh!  He also said it was just something I'd have to live with.  Sigh, nice.  I stopped pulling weeds, took the elevator when possible and kept swimming.  Luckily for me, this kept it well managed and under control.  At the time, I didn't realize the pain I'd felt had a special name or diagnosis.  I believe the swimming I was engaged in, kept my core strong and kept the pubic bones from shearing as long as I didn't put them under undue stress.

With my third pregnancy, I was not swimming anymore.  About 14 weeks into my pregnancy I could not walk more than a couple hundred feet before I was in agonizing pain.  I went to my doctor and was told there was nothing to do for it except to wear a big elastic band around my hips.  He followed that gem of advice with, "don't worry, after you have your baby, everything'll go back to normal."  At week 14 of a 40 week haul and I could barely walk from my car to the damn doctor's office, this was not something I wanted to hear.  I dutifully went to the mall, bought the silly rubber band, and cinched it tight around my hips.  It didn't do a darn thing. 

I am a Physical Therapist Assistant, and was never taught anything about PSD in school, nor did my fellow therapist friends have any advice for me either, other than to wear a TENS unit (a little electrical stimulation device that helps to mask pain).  I am not one to sit by idly, and I also knew that my core muscles needed strengthening to offset the sloppy ligaments.  Since walking and exercising on land was near impossible, I decided to join my local gym and get into a water aerobics class.  The beauty of exercising in the water is that it is buoyant and supports you while at the same time giving you resistance to strengthen you.  I was cautious with my movements in the beginning, keeping them small and in a pain-free range.  But I worked out with as much gusto as I could.  After the first workout, I found I was a little sore, but no worse for the wear.  The next class, I increased the size of the movements and the intensity.  I went to the class 3-5 times per week, as it felt so good to be able to move around in the water, it was liberating.  At the end of the class we would jog around the pool.  After a few weeks, I felt so good I was lapping all my silver-haired classmates.  I know, not a crowning achievement, but going from hobbling a few feet here and there to lapping folks in a running spree was good for my morale.  Here's the amazing thing about all this.  Within a couple weeks, my symptoms went away!  Absolutely zero groin pain!  So I added walking outside the pool to my exercises as well (obviously, I didn't overdo it, and I paid attention to my body), and I kept hitting the pool, and pushing my pool workouts to the limits of my comfort.  To my knowledge, no studies have been done to prove that this is an effective cure for PSD, but in both my pregnancies when I was afflicted with this dastardly problem, my time in the swimming pool took away the symptoms after they appeared. 

My last pregnancy was about 9 years ago now, and I remember searching desperately for a solution to my situation.  As I look around the web today, there is still little to no helpful information about PSD.  It appears that the main advice still being handed to folks is to put on that useless rubber band (ridiculous), to take it easy (not always possible, especially if you have more than one child), to skip the stairs (I couldn't avoid that, I live in a two story house) and to maybe try a TENS unit for pain (just a band aid, doesn't solve the problem).  It makes good sense to me that the pubic joint needs the extra muscular support because the ligaments are not able to do their job.  Therefore you need to strengthen the core muscles, and traditional Kegels are not going to do the trick!  Water is the perfect supportive and resistive environment to challenge your core without undue stress.  Each person is unique and presents with different health issues during their pregnancy, therefore it's important to check in with your doctor before joining a program, but if he/she gives you the okay, get into the water ASAP.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Who is Millie Burns? First and foremost, I should warn you, I have been known to be rather chatty. I am the baby of eleven children. I believe, but don't quote me on this, all the attention I received at the hands of my ever-adoring siblings set me up to be an extrovert. Don't blame me, blame it on them. Because of this though, I have a smile for just about everyone I meet, usually am having a "fantastic" day, and will easily chat with just about anyone, anywhere, about anything.

In a family that large, there was always someone willing to read to me. Therefore I learned to read at a very early age. By two, I had memorized my favorite books, and would recite them, turning the pages when appropriate. Mom thought she had a genius on her hands, but soon realized I didn't recognize the words in other books. But, by three, I was reading. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Reading opened up strange new worlds to me. My fascination with fantastic and scary stories is a long one (again I blame my siblings). My wild imagination sent me flying into my parent's bed nearly every night.

  Flash forward to my adult years. My love of people and wanting to help them steered me in the direction of the health care industry. My uncomfortable friendship with needles and blood pushed me towards Physical Therapy. I have been a Physical Therapist Assistant for over 20 years. I am also a Personal Trainer. I've jokingly told my clients that PT stands for pain and torture, or personal terrorist, or my favorite - Priestess of Torture! For some reason, they don't find it as amusing as I do.

Of all the jobs on my resume, my absolute favorite is that of wife and mom, which embodies a multitude of job titles in one package (chauffer, shrink, chef, teacher, secretary, maid, party planner, and the list goes on...and on). For over half of my twenty years in this field, I've been blessed to be able to work from home. My husband and I have three beautiful, smart, and talented daughters. Our two eldest are college age, though I'm sure I'm not old enough to have kids in college. Our youngest is going into the fourth grade. I have run the gambit in all things girl related for well over twenty years. Not to toot my own horn, but I am definitely an expert in this field!

All of these things have finally combined in my life to create the last little thing you should know about me. I am an author! I find myself full to overflowing with ideas that draw from places and people I have encountered through the years. This humble little blog will undoubtedly be a mixed bag of things about writing, parenting, healthcare ideas and issues that interest me, as well as other oddly random topics that pop into my brain!

Okay, so my hubby's making that hand sign at me, you know, the one where your top fingers meet your thumb and go up and down. Yeah, just like a mouth, gab, gab, gab!