Archive | May 2011

There’s an upside to everything

Over the past few months, I’ve posted quite a bit about my struggles with Graves’ Disease. What I haven’t had a chance to share yet is the story of life after the struggle. Why? Because I’ve been about doing things and enjoying life, feeling great! That’s right, after what seemed like an eternity of feeling miserable, I’ve finally come through feeling myself again.

This brings me to one of my biggest concerns before I went through treatment: I really thought I might not feel myself anymore. Or worse–maybe I wouldn’t be myself anymore. This probably sounds absurd, but for us hyperactive folks, it’s a big part of who we are. I have always been bouncy, energetic, and able to accomplish more in a day than many of my counterparts at work or at home. Treatment for Graves’ Disease set out to put an end to that–or so I thought.

But the truth was, I hadn’t been feeling myself for quite some time. It had been months and possibly years since I felt “normal”. I don’t know how the disease progresses over time, but as I think back, there were times were I can see some ebb and flow–where it’d get bad and then back off again and I’d feel almost right. By the time I received treatment in the form of radioactive iodine ablation (RAI), I’d say that I was about as far from feeling myself as I could get. (Though I’d rather not test that theory.)

So did RAI treatment change who I am? In terms of energy, no. The disease had slowed me done so much, that the treatment brought me back up to where I love to be. Yes, for a while I was a walking zombie. However, shortly after writing that article, I backed off the beta blockers (atenolol) the doctor had me on, and I did a complete reversal. It seemed that the drugs that had been making me normal for a while actually did the opposite once my thyroid had shrunk enough to produce less hormone to disrupt my system.

However, there is one major change. My other fear–which I imagine other hyperactives worry about–was that after enjoying years of eating as much of whatever I wanted and still maintaining a slim figure with or without exercise, I feared I’d quickly become obese. This fear, I assure you, is unfounded–at least in my experience. So what’s the major change? My appetite. It happened about two weeks after RAI treatment, and I swear, it was overnight. I went from consuming huge portions and constantly being hungry, to filling up on a couple of bites. (No joke.) Now at nine weeks after RAI, I eat about half the portion sizes I did before treatment. Could I gain weight? Yes. If I ate like I did before and continued not to exercise. Have I? No, because I’ve cut back and started exercising. (After not being able to do much for months, it feels fantastic to get my body moving again!)

While I surely would have preferred not to go through all of this (my wallet wishes I hadn’t too), it has had another very positive effect. Like many who’ve struggled through adversity, my experience with Graves’ Disease has changed my perspective on life and what’s important, and it’s given me even greater drive to achieve the goals I’ve set out for myself and do the things in life that make me happiest.

As they say, there’s an upside to everything.

I have a new website! Please join me there! http://amysjoy.com

The Rocker

When I was a little girl, I had a rocking chair. Okay, that’s not true—as my older sister would quickly remind me. She had a rocker. But the one you could find in that chair most of the time, rocking away, alive in her imagination, was me. It’s the place where I dreamed up my best ideas—stories, projects, artwork, schemes, experiments, and contraptions. The day my dad told me I was too big to sit in that rocker anymore was not my best day. (I had to be told a few more times after that…) And in the years that followed, I never felt quite the same.

In the fall of 2010, my husband and I decided to start a family. With this news, my sister and her husband—their children no longer small—passed on to me their baby glider. Equipped with a rocking footstool, I had sat in many of these in recent years, hoping that someday I might be lucky enough to have earned one of my own. Now my dream had come true.

Then I lost the pregnancy.

And another.

And another.

By that time, I was quite ill. In fact, instead of getting to start a family, my husband and I learned that I had Graves’ Disease. Months of treatment—including radiation—followed, creating some of the worst months of my life.

For the most part, I think I have done a good job of putting thoughts of a family aside. We can’t even begin to try again for at least six months (some recommend 12), and so I feel there’s little need to dwell on it now.

But here’s what I find interesting. Over the past few months, that mommy glider has come to mean something different in my life. It’s the place of comfort I go to create my stories and do my best writing. It’s where my characters are invented and their worlds unfold. It’s the place where I am happiest.

And it reminds me of a little girl I used to know, who used to sit and rock for hours, dreaming of what she’d create next.

Somehow, despite all I’ve lost, I feel more whole.

Made the Move to WordPress

Top reasons why I moved my blog:

  1. Blogger went down. Recently the program failed and it never fully recovered my material.
  2. I’ve heard the WordPress gets more hits. I decided to test it out.
  3. It was easy. No problem to set up, and it imported my Blogger account easily. Nothing lost–except what Blogger already destroyed, so I’m happy.
  4. Of the many blogs I’ve perused, WordPress looks more professional overall. (Some blogger sites look great; I’m generalizing here.)
  5. WordPress doesn’t require users to be logged in or members of their system to leave comments.

My thoughts on the move so far: I love it!  WordPress is user-friendly. I’ve heard that Blogger is easier. That may be the case, but I found it limited. With WordPress, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.

What I Learned About Writing from Reading SHIVER

As writers, every book has the potential to teach us something about writing. Last night I finished Shiver* by Maggie Stiefvater. From this experience, I was reminded of many things I knew but now experienced again, reinforcing the importance of each lesson.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read it, please know that I give examples that give significant story elements away!

Here’s some of my learning highlights:

  1. If you are going to tell a story from two points of view, each needs a distinctive voice. Shiver shifts back and forth between the point of view Grace (bitten human that didn’t turn into a wolf) and Sam (wolf). This is great. However, without their names printed at the top of the page, I’d never know who was speaking until they talked about the other person. Sure, some people are a lot alike–my husband and I think so alike sometimes it’s creepy–but after years together I know that the voice in his head doesn’t sound like mine. On paper, it wouldn’t either.
  2. Foreshadowing can be great, but only tell the story once. I think this is a stylistic thing, but Stiefvater often tells us what’s going to happen–the deer’s going to hit the truck–and then she tells us again in slow motion. The problem:
    • It takes away a lot of the shock value that you would get if you skipped the first telling.
    • It can cause confusion for readers. Every time this technique was used, I had to re-read the section to see if what I thought had happened really did and (because the punchline was thrown in my face instead of leading up to it), it if did, then did it happen once or twice? (e.g. was there one deer? or two?)
  3. Everything in a story has to lead to one purpose, and that purpose has to become clear enough to readers to propel them ahead in their reading. What do I mean? We need to be merciless in making cuts. If it doesn’t lead to our primary purpose for writing the story, and it doesn’t draw in readers to make them want to read more, it needs to go. Here’s the problem I had with Shiver: I never really knew where I was headed. I felt like I was ambling most of the way. Fairly early on you learn that Sam can’t stand the cold and he thinks this is his last change (which, since he didn’t really have much to back it up, I wasn’t really buying). You also know that some white wolf chick is in love with Sam and has it out for Grace. You know she’ll attack eventually, and you know she’s not dead after she does. Is she coming back? Is this the main thrust of the story? After a while, I kept reading just to see if that was supposed to be where the story was leading me or something else. The problem: there wasn’t enough to make me go crazy wanting to read the next part of the story. As a result, it took me a whopping 3 1/2 weeks to finish–during which, I traded off with other things.
  4. A love story needs a little tension to be believable. I realize some will hate me for saying this. Sam + Grace forever, I know. But here’s the problem: it was too easy. I’m not saying love has to be difficult (it never has been for my husband and me), but for the plot to move forward (again, see #3), there needs to be tension. For most of us, that tension is separation: we want to be with the significant other every moment–especially when we first meet–and we can’t. Why not replicate this in our stories? Imagine this: Sam appears on the doorstep naked and wounded. Grace takes him to the hospital, but then, he disappears. Where’d he go? Will she see him again? Now I’m dying to know out what happened. Now I want him to come back. I need him to. Suddenly, I have to put everything else in my life aside to find out what happens next, and I read through the book in a day, rather than weeks. Stiefvater’s version of the wolf is perfect for this: every time it gets cold, Sam disappears again. There’s mystery involved. There’s suspense. There’s fiery romance.

All this being said, I still love the premise of the book, and I’m left wondering how much wolf is in Grace. Could anything provoke her to change over? Will Sam ever change again? Will his father-figure Beck? While the book isn’t perfect (few are), it leaves me enough questions to want to linger on the story a bit longer.

*Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is part of a trilogy including linger (book 2) and forever (book 3).

News Parody: Sunshine Appears in Midwest; Crowds Flock to Witness

At 8:14 this morning, Bonnie Ray of Riley, Ohio had an other-worldly experience.

“Suddenly, there was this bright light, streaming through the window, filling the room with this beautiful, yellow light. I stood, frozen. I wanted to call out to my husband, Harold, but I was too afraid.”

“Did you know what was happening?” I asked her.

“I just assumed aliens.”

“I came in a moment later,” Harold explained, “and she was shaking like mad. I pulled my arms around her, holding her tight and explained that it was only sunlight.” He paused before adding, “I remembered it from when I was a boy.”

I talked with reporters from throughout the Midwest region, many of whom witnessed the experience today. Tyler Thompson, of BigCity News, was on the scene in Chicago.

“I was in my office when I started hearing the commotion. My co-workers and I had closed our blinds decades ago so we wouldn’t have to look at the gloomy skies. When we heard the sound, Kim, my assistant, ran to the window to peer out. As she parted the blinds, this bright light blazed through. ‘MY EYES!’ she cried.”

Thompson explained how he and his co-workers–like others I spoke with today–simply left their work behind, drawn in by the bright light and the outdoor frenzy it was creating. People flocked to the streets to witness the event. Crowds cheered, street musicians celebrated, and local vendors sold ice cream, slushies, sunglasses, and suntan lotion. “We’re working on ‘I saw the sun!’ t-shirts right now,” one vendor told me.

Some estimates say that Midwesterners may not have seen the sun in as many as 40 years. Others say that many have seen glimpses of it, but have written it off as their imagination. Like Mrs. Ray, they are more likely to believe in aliens than in the possibility that the sun might actually shine where they live.

For those who witnessed the event today, it was something they will remember for a lifetime.

Did you witness the event? Share your story below or Click here to get your very own “I saw the sun!” t-shirt!

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