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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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Accepting and Protesting

solIt seems the world is falling apart. With the election of Donald J. Trump into the White House, protests have broken out across America and family and friends aren’t speaking to one another.

I’m grappling with this myself, I am. A Democrat and supporter of liberal ideals, I woke up Wednesday morning, donned all black, plastered a homemade sign on the back of my power chair with the words “not my president” and headed out to Memorial Park to walk Frankie. I saw no one. It was a quiet, drizzly morning and it’s safe to say, true to the grief process, much of the left-leaning world was still in shock and denial. I was my own one-woman protest. And I had no followers except a dog and he was more leading anyway (and not even donning a cute shirt like ‘Mutts Against Mitt’).

Then I came home and tearfully listened to Hillary’s concession speech (unfortunately the best and most authentic speech I’ve heard her give). “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that, we cherish it.” Yes, I thought. And in the spirit of that speech, and not wanting to add to the divisiveness, threw away my sign.

Then the protests started, some of them chanting the very same words I had printed out on my computer, and I felt compelled to get back in the fray again. Cher and Madonna say I need to fight! The wonderful thing about living in a democracy is being allowed the freedom to disagree – loudly even.

But here’s the thing – it’s turning violent and ugly. They are also chanting F*** Trump. I would never be comfortable chanting that no matter how much I dislike the man.

So here’s what I’ve decided today. I’m going back to what Hillary said and what rings true to my own heart. I’m focusing on the peaceful transfer of power. What I’m having a little more trouble with is owing Trump an “open mind and the chance to lead.” Really? Do I really owe him that?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m watching it unfold just like all of you. I’m emotional,  sleep-deprived and struggling with my civic responsibilities and friendships.

But I will also exercise my freedom of speech and cherish the fact that I live in a country in which I am free to object and stand up against any would be leaders. So, my presence on Facebook may be just a little more political. I have dear friends, Republicans or even Trump voters, who read my blog. I have tried (sort of) to remain publicly neutral for the sake of my writing. I guess I don’t feel I can anymore. If I lose readers, so be it. Not only is writing wonderfully cathartic, it is my peaceful protest.

Adventures in Misadventures

bookstore-bestsellers-16563259I’m here. I’m back I did not fall off of the face of the earth. As you might have guessed, settling into a new neighborhood, publishing a book and consistently putting out a blog post was a little too much for me. Something had to give – sorry.

It turns out that writing the book was the easy part. And it also turns out that some cover designers don’t understand the difference between a hospital wheelchair and one that’s designed to sit in every day. But I’m teaching them. And learning a lot in the process.23015

I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get the @#$# thing out that I missed several of your good wishes and inquiries on how to purchase the book. The easiest way will be to order online from Amazon (though they’ll take their cut). That’s probably best if you don’t live in Jacksonville and I’ll post an announcement when it’s available. Otherwise, you may want to pick up a copy from me, especially if you know you’ll see me!

So to prove I haven’t been kicking back at Sun-Ray or Memorial Park with Frankie all day, I give you a piece I’m writing into the end of Misadventures of a Happy Heart: A Memoir of Life Beyond Disability. Consider it a sneak preview. Enjoy!

How To Have Your Own Misadventures

1. Don’t take things so seriously. Cultivate your sense of humor.
Learn to laugh at yourself. I don’t mean to sound like an R.E.M. song, but it’s a fact. People like to be around (and help) happy, smiling people. And let’s face it, sometimes the most humorous thing about the situation is you…if you choose to see it. You may already stick out like a sore thumb and everybody’s staring anyway – have some fun with it. It may be cliché, but laughter really is the best medicine.

2. Don’t define yourself by tragedy.
Don’t become known as “the girl in the wheelchair” or “the guy who had the skiing accident.” Make your life about something more than whatever tragic thing happened to you. Do you want to be introduced as “the divorcée” forever? Make your story about something positive, not negative. There’s power in words. If you’re constantly reliving a negative event, through words or thoughts, you’re putting that energy out into the world. Put positive out and get positive back.

3. Consider getting a dog.
I highly recommend living with an animal of some kind. It keeps you from getting lonely (if you live alone). One study showed that not only were pet owners less lonely, but they were healthier and had higher self-esteem too! Plus, owning a dog gets you outside for all those walks, rain or shine. And if you have a disability, a dog can be a great icebreaker. Many able-bodied people may stop to talk with you that normally would not have, which helps to build disability awareness. And there are so many homeless pets. Contact your local humane society, ASPCA or The National Association of Service Dogs.

4. Live in a walkable community.
If you can no longer drive, this is key to regaining your independence. Even if you still drive, life is too short to spend stressful hours in traffic. Getting out to grocery shop or run errands is good for you and allows you to meet your neighbors. And, if disabled, doing things for yourself can make you feel competent and confident!

5. Get involved. Socialize. Help others.
For me, all three of these things came together in Adaptive Sports and Recreation. Exercise is important for your physical and mental health. And most importantly, it allows you to make friends, often with people going through something similar. Call around. Your local hospital, rehab center or doctor’s office may be a good place to start. Seek out support groups. You’ll find there’s usually always someone worse off than you. Offer your assistance or be a mentor to others. You’ll find this gets you out of yourself and your own problems and reminds you to be grateful for what you have.

Riverside Authors Expo

image006Here we go! Come join me for my first reading from my book Misadventures of a Happy Heart, A Memoir of Life Beyond Disability at the Riverside Arts Market next Saturday. I will be taking pre-orders for the memoir from my booth and Frankie will be there (against my better judgement) to charm the crowd. Stop by and see us and help support local authors!

 

My Happy List

This blog post could alternately be titled: Why I Don’t Write Every Day. I know, I know. Writers are supposed to write every day. Most books on writing, writing teachers and even other writers will tell you to write every day. Write when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Pick a time, preferably the same time every day (to train your muse as to when to show up), and just do it. Well, I’ve tried, and dammit, I give up. I’m tired of trying, and failing, to find enough time in the day. I’m embracing my inner lazy person and letting it go. I’m officially letting myself off the hook. No guilt.

What prompted this revamping of my schedule is a post on Facebook. (Facebook is a major time-waster that should probably be re-prioritized by many of you, myself included, though it did inspire this blog.) Anyway, here’s the post.

11083769_10155418539585486_4486238499825334797_o

1. Make a list of the things that make you happy.

2. Make a list of things you do every day.

3. Compare the lists.

4. Adjust accordingly.

Brilliant. And so simple. I’m sure my cousin, who originally shared this basic wisdom, will be pleased to know I’ve taken it to heart.

So, what makes me happy these days? Taking care of myself. Being and staying healthy. As a result, I’ve decided my time at the gym or time doing yoga is time well spent. I also really enjoy walking Frankie. Which is fortunate because he really needs to be walked once, sometimes twice daily. It’s usually an hour long affair with several stops in the shade where I can listen to the birds and think of nothing while he pees and then kicks, pees and kicks, pees and kicks in the grass to his heart’s content. See, it makes him happy too. So, it’s a win-win. And lastly, I love being involved in a good book. So, reading makes my list. Oh! And I almost forgot – Mom! (How could I forget with the coming Mother’s Day weekend?) We really do have fun together when she’s not driving me crazy. (Sorry, I know that’s kind of a back-handed compliment.) So, there’s my happy list. Taking care of my health. Walking Frankie. Reading. Spending time with Mom.

And I’ve been making adjustments, or re-prioritizing, based on my list. Like last week, I dropped everything to sit on my deck and enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having in Jacksonville while reading a book. Or before that, I left dirty dishes in the sink and, still  in my pajamas well after noon, went out back to sit by the pool with Mom. The choices are easier. Dirty dishes? Getting showered and dressed? Hey, not on the list.

You’ll notice writing didn’t make the list. Not that it doesn’t make me happy … Well, wait. Who am I kidding? Show me the writer who joyfully sits down to write every day and I’ll show you a writer with an open bottle of scotch on the ready and a drinking problem. For most of us, it’s torture. The idea of being a writer makes me happy. The idea of writing every day? Not so much. There’s a difference.

I’ve decided to look at it like author Patricia Cornwell, who advised, “Treat your writing like a relationship, and not a job.” I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been punching a clock. And, hey, if that works for you and makes you happy – then punch away. There just aren’t enough hours in my day. If I view it as a relationship, it becomes less like work and more about maintaining that connection. I’ll always come back to it. I’d miss it.

I’ll even take it one step further. My writing is like a marriage. I’m ready to make that serious commitment. To vow that writing will always be a part of my life. Just not my daily life. It’s like my husband lives out of state. Or we have separate houses. But we talk often.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been writing all day and a certain somebody needs a walk.20150315_121425

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Reading …

q1We knew this day would come. Okay, maybe you all didn’t know, but I knew. I can’t very well write this blog forever, can I? The answer is no, I can’t. All good things must come to an end. Well, let me rephrase that because I’ve never been good with the finality of endings. It’s more a hiatus of sorts. Yes, I’m taking a sabbatical.

My friend Mary, along with other writers, have commended me on the regularity of this blog. Every Sunday. For just over three years. I know some friends and family who’ll miss it dearly, for it’s how they’ve grown accustomed to keeping up with my life. Even my mom still learns new things about me, and she lives right next door.

But maybe Mary’s the one who has it figured out. Writing when the mood strikes, instead of on a production schedule. Maybe that’s the secret to longevity. She’s more productive and she’s been at this for a lot longer than me. She also types faster than nine words a minute using both hands. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist playing the handicapped card one more time. I’m sure it won’t be the last.)

It’s like before I became disabled. It was everything I could do to struggle awake for work when the alarm went off at 7:30. Now, with nowhere to be, my eyes pop open, sans alarm, at 5:30 a.m. So maybe, now that I don’t have to publish a post, it will be easier.

Not that it was so difficult. It wasn’t. And I did get better. Better at not flying into a panic the last half of the week if I didn’t have an idea yet. It was a good practice for me. I learned to trust the process.

But, oh the energy. Knowing you have three to five hundred words to put out there takes up a lot of mental space in your brain. And there are lots of things I want that space for. For starters, I need to get my book published. Apparently, book deals aren’t like bananas at sporting events — they don’t just hand them out when you’re done.

And I have so many interests! So many passions. Writing will always be one of them — a main one. But there’s also my health — and the fitness routine I need to get back to. The weather’s getting nice, I want to swim in the pool with Mom and maybe coax Frankie in (he hates water). And travel. I still want to travel. Maybe live in a foreign country? If I ever figure out how to do that, you know I’ll have to blog about it. Or write another book. Handicapped traveler in a foreign land? That adventure seems ripe with opportunity for comedic mishap.

Yes, most certainly there’ll be other posts. Make sure you’re signed up for my blog so you’ll receive an email when I’ve posted something new since this Sunday-like-clockwork thing can’t be counted on anymore.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from disability, it’s that you only have one life and it’s short. Make time for all your passions. Make time for more. And do it now.q2

 

The Business of Writing

Business of WritingThere’s a side of writing that I absolutely hate and I’m no good at. When the work is done and as clean as I can make it, it’s usually time to find it a home. To publish it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as in the blogging world where you just hit “publish.”

“What do you have to do?” a friend asked me about my book, which to me sounded like, “Oh yeah? What’s so hard about it?”

Nothing. There’s nothing so hard about it. Write a query letter to various agents or publishers, and wait. Or edit it a little to fit the word count requirement if it’s an article or essay. And wait.

“Well, you gotta research websites, make sure they’re a good fit, check their guidelines. Everybody wants things sent a different way,” I complained.

“But your query letter is done, right? Don’t you use the same one?”

“Yeah, but you gotta sit down, change the dates, who it’s addressed to …” Ooh, tough, right? I knew I was stretching.

I mean, really. What’s my problem? It’s not even like I’m shooting in the dark. My writing coach has handed me a list of agents who publish similar things! Which is basically half the work, if not more. So, what’s my excuse?

I don’t have one. Not a good one, anyway. I’ve got plenty of weak ones. Frankie needs walking. I have to go to the gym. The Olympics are on. Actually, those are half decent. Next week, it’ll be: It’s a close game of Words With Friends, The Voice is on, or Frankie ate my query letter. It’s called procrastination, folks. And I’m guilty of it when it comes to submitting my work for publication.

When I’m writing, the words seem to bubble out like coffee from a percolator. It feels like there’s an energy behind them, an unseen motivator urging me on like a personal trainer. Once it’s written, the rest is just work. Like paying bills or doing taxes. The trainer has left the building and I have to benchpress a hundred pounds all by myself. With no one to spot me.

I’m writing this in my pajamas. Submitting something for publication feels like having to set my alarm to get dressed for an interview. Downtown. Or trying to cram my now widened and comfortable feet into stockings and heels. (Do women even still wear stockings or is that just a bad memory leftover from working in the 90s?)

Nevertheless, it’s a necessary evil of the writing world. That is, if you ever want people to read your words. And not just on your blog either.

And now that I’ve complained about it on my blog, my very best excuse, it’s time to hit “publish.” I’ve got other business to attend to.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.  ~William James

The Idea Factory

blogSometimes I feel like my idea factory is about to be shut down. Like all the workers have gone on strike due to poor working conditions. They’re demanding higher wages. And shorter working days. I wish I could help them.

It’s times like these I’m grateful to have other writer friends to lament to.

And just like they say – when you’re blocked, you should write about being blocked. When you can’t think of an idea, you should write about thinking up ideas. Well, no one says that. I just made it up. But, I think it’s legit. I’m going to write my way out of the fear of never coming up with another good idea. So, here goes.

The first thing any writer (or artist, or songwriter, really anyone that needs ideas) should have is some place to keep notes. It can be special (a beautiful, leather-bound journal) or ordinary (a file folder full of scribbled-on napkins). The point is that all these scribblings are kept together. So you can locate and refer to them.

I used to keep a folder full of handwritten notes, back when my notes were handwritten. Now, I use a handheld voice recorder given to me by a friend. I just have to make sure I transcribe these notes onto the computer in full detail when it’s fresh. Otherwise, I’ll have no idea what I was talking about. Like the old recording I recently found with the words “bus,” “bad mood” and “whispering.” I’m sure it was brilliant at the time, but now it means nothing.

Any form of media can usually get the wheels turning again. Think pop culture: books, movies, television, magazines, music. There’s many a movie I’ve blogged about in the past and one post “all about books.” Literally. That’s what it was called.

I make time for TV and magazines. I consider it research. I’m not saying you can justify a subscription to Us Weekly – unless all you write about is fluff. But I do check out The Huffington Post and 60 Minutes from time to time for that purpose. And Downton Abbey is just a blog waiting to happen. Something about women’s rights and British high society. It’s still brewing.

Eavesdrop on conversations. People watch at the airport. It’s all “filling the well” as author Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way. Sound bites and snippets for nuggets of future genius. In fact, Ms. Cameron encourages students to take themselves on “Artist Dates” to continually fill the well of inspiration. And an Artist Date can be to any place that nourishes your creativity, even the unexpected places. Treat yourself to a museum, garden or park. How about a diner or coffeeshop? Even a cemetary.

The last place you can look for ideas is in your own head. It’s filled with a lifetime of memories that may spin off into your next great idea. Maybe you just need to open an old photo album or yearbook to remind yourself. And what’s not there, your mind can make up. Particularly in your sleep, so write down your dreams.

As for me, I’ve got to go make some notes. The workers have returned and my factory’s back in business.

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

At Noon on Tuesday (I Mean Wednesday)

There’s something wonderful about drinking in the middle of afternoon. It’s so forbidden. So frowned upon. I love it. I guess that’s why I like the lyrics to that poppy Sheryl Crow song, “All I Wanna Do.” You know, “… is have some fun.”

Well, I did it. Popped open the champagne one afternoon last week with my friend, Diane. I finished (with her invaluable help) editing my memoir, Misadventures of a Happy Heart: A Memoir of Life Beyond Disability. 

I had no idea the whole process was going to take forever. My eyes are open now. I don’t see how people write second novels. Unless, it’s like childbirth and you forget the pain amid the joys of parenthood/authorship. I’m obviously just guessing.

But, it was a feat worth celebrating. Of course, this had me looking up quotes on celebration. As usual, I found a bunch I liked, so I’ll let you choose your favorite. Don’t forget to make time for your own celebrations. Not just birthdays and anniversaries, but the days you had a little more to do with. And, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.130807_0003

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” ~Thomas J. Peters

“Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die.” ~Dave Matthews

“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating.” ~Jarod Kintz

“A good time occurs precisely when we lose track of what time it is.” ~Robert Farrar Capon

“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living.” ~Sydney Smith

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” ~Oprah Winfrey

 

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