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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Month

November 2013

The Importance of Proper Sleep

131123_0006This is what good sleep looks like.

It’s 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning and although someone in the house is sleeping soundly, it’s not me. I’m doing it again. Taking on too much and striving to find the balance. I’m still looking.

Ever since completing my book, I’ve been under the impression that the pressure I felt to be writing would ease up a bit. Not so. The self-imposed finish-the-book pressure has been replaced by the similarly self-imposed get-it-published pressure. There are queries to write, agents to contact and publishing houses to research. There’s also new writing to submit to my writer’s group, proving to myself and to them, that a writer without a book idea is still a writer. And let’s not forget the commitment I have here. To this blog and all of you. Though as my friend Mary puts it, no one’s holding a gun to my head.

I’m just as busy as I’ve ever been, if not busier. So why did I decide this would be a good time to start a new business? Either I’m glutton for punishment or a closeted martyr. Maybe I thrive on complaining about how busy I am, all the while piling on paperwork like I’m striving for a promotion. Maybe I’m out to disprove the theory that disabled people sit around all day and watch television. Maybe, I just didn’t think.

See, I got sucked into the same business I wrote about my friend having. The business that’s all about making your home smell great? Well, lately my home smells like warm apple pie, but I’m half asleep and there’s a mountain of dishes in the sink. And I say “got sucked in” because I’m kind of run by my emotions. I liked the products and the marketing. It’s called Pink Zebra and there’s this adorable little zebra mascot. When I joined the team of independent consultants, they welcomed me “to the herd.”  I’m a sucker for that stuff. And when something feels right, I throw myself in — all in. But again, no one put a gun to my head. My life is busy because I keep it that way — I have to face that.

But something’s gotta give. Especially after the holidays, when I (and the rest of the world) head back to the gym. For right now, that thing is sleep. I’ve been hitting the pillow far too late each night and waking around 2:00 a.m. when Frankie wants to go outside to do potty dance circles for a half hour. That or I wake up with a start, unable to move, pinned in my too-small bed by a dog on one side and a cat on the other. And I can’t go back to sleep. My mind is racing with new business ideas or I’m crafting sentences in my head for my next story. Some people call it the witching hour. I call it the genius hour.

So no, this post really isn’t about proper sleep at all, except to say I’m not getting any. A friend and I noticed that I tend to write about the things I need to work on. It’s not that I’m so great at being healthy, letting go or getting organized (well, I am pretty good at that,) but I try to inspire myself, too. And in case you were really looking forward to reading about the benefits of obtaining a full eight hours, I’ll tell you that chronic lack of sleep can lead to excess weight gain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Plus, sleeping feels good. Especially on these cold nights and rainy mornings.But don’t take my word for it, I wouldn’t know. You can ask Frankie. After he wakes up, of course.PZ-logo-main

The Choice

indexSomething’s been bothering me ever since I heard about it. The story about the Indiana man, Tim Bowers, who fell 16 feet from a tree during a hunting accident and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. His family asked that he be taken out of sedation long enough to decide for himself whether he wanted to live or die. He wanted to die. Doctors removed his breathing tube and five hours later, he was gone. He left behind a wife and unborn child. And I can’t stop thinking about it. Or feeling sad.

My heart goes out to his family and I can’t imagine the gut wrenching emotions they must have gone and are still going through. I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. Not by a long shot. But I’m troubled by this. For many reasons.

It was reported that the family had an idea what Bowers would want because he’d previously talked with his wife about not wanting to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I wish it had read that they had an idea he wouldn’t want to spend his life on a ventilator. Or live all his days in a hospital. Because for all my love of life, even I can agree — that’s no way to live. I might have done the same. But to report that the family knew he didn’t want to live his life in a wheelchair? You guys know there’s a difference here, right? Because statements like this, as if they are one and the same, just perpetuate the myth that becoming disabled means life is over.

I’m reminded of a Push Girls episode in which the mother of one of the girls admits to having wished the girl had just died because she didn’t think she’d have much of a life in a wheelchair. I hope your mouth has hit the floor over this as much as mine did. It seems ludicrous. To me and probably everyone who knows me or anybody in a wheelchair. But this perception is out there, people!

So I’m going to stress it again to all of you able-bodied people out there. In the sad event that tragedy strikes you or someone you love. LIFE IS NOT OVER. Yes, it’s the end of the world as you knew it. But it’s not the end of the world.

But back to Tim Bowers. I’ve read that his family had a small window of opportunity in which to let him make his own decision. If he’d decided at some later point that he didn’t want to live, then it would be called murder.

This is why I support an individual’s right to die. I think Jack Kevorkian had it right. If someone like Bowers decides two years down the road (when he might actually be better equipped to make such a call) that he doesn’t want to go on, that his quality of life doesn’t warrant sticking around, then I believe he should have the right to call it quits. But to decide that in an instant? The day after a tragic accident?

And I realize this may come as a shock — but doctors don’t always get it right. The day after an accident? Who knows how the prognosis would have changed over time and with therapy and technological advancements?

I’ve met all kinds of people that thought they didn’t want to go on. But they have gone on. Gone on to fulfilling and productive lives that they are thankful to be living. The paraplegic who taught the rock climbing clinic I took wrote in his book that at first he wanted to die. He wanted to hurl himself out of the hospital window. The only thing that stopped him was the fact that he physically couldn’t get out of bed, let alone get to the window. He wanted to die. And yet he went on to become the first paraplegic to climb El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. And inspire thousands like him along the way.

I have a friend who can only move her head (and one hand on a good day). And I’m betting she wouldn’t trade getting to see her granddaughter’s face light up or watching her take her first steps. It’s different. I know it’s different. My friend can live at home and get around out in the world. I don’t know what it’s like to face a future as bleak as Bowers’. Everyone must decide for themselves what in life, if anything, is worth living for.

I guess I’m saying I wish he could have had more time. Slept on it a night or two. Of course he immediately wanted to die. It’s just a shame we couldn’t have asked him later.

Holy Holidays!

1320885969y6i5ExThose of you that have been reading for awhile will recognize this as the cheap and easy ploy that it is – the holiday rerun. That’s right, I said holiday. It’s never too early. Retail stores tell us it’s that time. Kmart began advertising their Christmas layaway plan well before Halloween. This year, I will be prepared.

Original Post:

 I’m not prepared. Either mentally or physically. I have no money, no time, and very little good cheer. Not that I’m a Grinch. I’m not. I’m as pleasant as usual. But it seems this time of year requires extra pleasantness when all I really want to do is be left alone to don my sweatpants and eat a big plate of Christmas cookies. Baked by somebody else, of course.

I attempted to commiserate with a friend a while ago. I should have known by the carol music playing in her car well before Thanksgiving that I was barking up the wrong Christmas tree. Turns out she’s Martha Stewart’s fourth cousin twice removed. She’s had her shopping done since October.

If you’re also kin to Martha, then by all means, bake, shop and decorate away! The season is what it is because of you and your 10-foot trees and chocolate rum balls. If, however, you’re more like me — here are a few of my survival tips:

One for all. This year, almost everyone in my family is getting the same thing. It isn’t unthoughtful if you put a lot of care into picking that one item. You’re really just taking a great idea and duplicating it. I have a standard wedding present that gets rave reviews — delivered champagne and chocolates. A friend has a favorite bereavement gift that includes a comforting, soft blanket and beautiful engraved wind chimes. Giving in mass works for friends and co-workers too. A variety of teas, cocoa and a candy cane with a nice bar of chocolate in 20 mini-stockings and you’re good to go.

Bag it. Do yourself a favor. Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Avoid the hassle of needing the scissors, tape and bows. Or better still, opt for gift wrapping if it’s free.

Just say no. Don’t feel obligated to do everything. There’s a reason more people get sick this time of year and it usually involves burning the Menorah at both ends. I’m not suggesting you skip the office Christmas party and all of the good gossip that entails, but you don’t have to R.S.V.P. yes to every invite in the mail. Speaking of mail, one thing I’m forgoing this year is holiday cards. Skip the stress of that terrible moment when you open a card from the neighbor you left off your list. And I’ve never been the family newsletter type. I find that when you write a blog, people you’ve never met know your life story anyway.

‘Tis better to give … Instead of buying one more anything for the person who has everything, why not experience the joy of giving to someone who really needs it? Let the people on your list know that this year you will be doing something charitable with your holiday budget. Who can gripe about that? I found so many organizations online and ways to give, it’s hard to pick just one. Help nationally through the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots or Make a Wish Foundation. Or research programs in your area. Provide presents for a low-income family, shop for children with a parent in prison or give to the victims of domestic violence. How about helping make the holidays brighter for the family of a fallen military soldier? Pick what tugs at your heartstrings the most.

“Get it yourself!” Let them buy what they really want. Gift cards are quick to purchase, easy to redeem, and can be slipped in a stocking. Plus, you avoid the risk of buying the wrong thing in the wrong size.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, there’s always egg nog. Sane animals usually hibernate this time of year. So, take a tip from nature: unplug the phone, stay in your pajamas, and don’t come out till it’s 2012. It’ll all be over soon.

These Days

As much as it pains me to start a post with “kids these days,” I have to. The holiday demands it. So here goes. Kids these days have no idea how great Halloween used to be. Today is a safe, watered down version. Like paying to see an R-rated movie and finding out it’s PG-13. Or worse yet, that it’s been edited with lame words like ‘gosh-darn’ and ‘fudge.’

We used to have Halloweens like those scenes in E.T., with hordes of kids packing the streets. We’d think nothing of sitting down at some stranger’s kitchen table to close our eyes and stick our hands into a big bowl of brains and eyeballs (cold spaghetti and meatballs). Back then, Halloween meant walking door to door, not riding in the backseat of Dad’s car, or trick-or-treating at Publix.  And we never trick-or-treated with our parents. (Unless we wanted to be ridiculed by the entire student body at school the next day.) And when I say “we,” I mean myself and most of you, as I assume I have very few readers under the age of 20.

I remember taking my full-to-the-brim pillowcase home to Mom, dumping it on the living room floor, and heading back out again. I asked a friend’s daughter how well she did and she said she got “tons” of candy. That meant a third of one pillowcase. Nowadays, there’s lots of candy in the house in the days after Halloween, not because it was received, but because it was never given away. We had about a dozen trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, more if you count all the parents.

In fact, now that I think about it, Halloween hasn’t been all that great since my childhood. I guess there were some fun costume parties in my twenties and thirties, but for the most part, the 70s were my heyday. And I guess that’s as it should be. Halloween is for kids. And not having any kids of my own … I suppose Frankie is the closest thing I have and he’s liable to bark at strangers, and can’t eat the chocolate anyway.

But now that I moved to Mom’s, the holiday’s looking up. For those of you that don’t know her, my mom’s really just a big kid at heart. She was so excited, we were outside by 4 o’clock. She had bought us ridiculous styrofoam wigs. I was willing. It was a super easy costume. Frankie had a jockey on his back, so I guess that made him a horse. He didn’t seem to notice his rider, so I guess he didn’t mind much either. We invited over a few of my friends, mostly hers.jo

As we passed out candy to a small number of trick-or-treaters, I was reminded of an important lesson. In a world that changes constantly, we have to live in the present to really get enjoyment from it all. It’s hard not to compare the present to Halloweens past, but by constantly lamenting, you’re liable to miss it. Everything changes. And everything can do so in a millisecond. Kids grow up fast. I don’t like to think about it and he’s still a young pup, but there are only a limited number of costumes in Frankie’s future. I heard somewhere that in hindsight, we were always happiest right before everything changed. Today is tomorrow’s fond memory. Don’t miss your happy.1381223_10201004166806705_2120968943_n

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