Category Archives: aging

Missing Miss A

Our Last Basenji

Wednesday, March 30, 2016IMG_1353

This will be the last day for our sweet basenji girl Acacia, whom we usually call Miss A. For I have an appointment for us with the vet at 5:30 this evening.

This day has been coming for quite a while. About a year and a half ago, our vet showed me an x-ray and diagnosed Miss A with a mass, probably cancerous. “Okay,” I said soon after that. “We won’t do anything expensive for her like dentistry. But as long as she’s not suffering, we’ll keep going.” And so Miss A and I have kept walking around our tree-lined neighborhood, especially lovely this spring.

Progressively she’s lost weight, down to between seventeen and eighteen pounds from nearly thirty pounds when we began her diet and exercise program the day after we had to put our Cory boy, our second basenji, down almost exactly three years ago today. (Varlet was our first.)

(In case you might not know, the basenji is an African breed, and the smallest of the hounds, used in packs to hunt lions and other big cats. Basenjis have distinctive, curled tails and sharp-pointed, foxy ears. And they don’t bark. That’s the very best thing about them. They do, however, make some weird sounds or yodels. Cory was vocal for a basenji. As for Miss A, she sometimes whimpers, sometimes growls, and occasionally she can be teased into giving a hoarse “woo.”)

Now, Miss A is mostly skin and bones except for the mass, not as big around as a soccer ball, but not much smaller either. And she’s very weak. When she jumps off my bed, for instance, she totters around or even sits down at first.

Still, until this week she ate fairly well and walked with me two or three times a day except when it was rainy or very cold. But then on Monday she ate only one out of her three meals. Yesterday she ate nothing but three treats after the last of our walks. Amazingly, in spite on this, we walked three times yesterday, a lovely spring day, for a total of fifty-five minutes altogether. Then this morning, she wouldn’t walk and she didn’t eat her breakfast. She did eat some of her lunch, a tempting mix of warm water, canned dog food and dry cat food. We walked for fourteen minutes this afternoon.

But I know very well that she will continue going down hill and so today’s her last day.

I already miss her, just thinking about that appointment. And I’m also thinking about what to do when she’s gone.

Some of that involves a pedestrian, rather heartless to-do list.

1) Now we can keep the doors open to the study and my daughter’s bedroom so Miss A won’t get in and eat the covers off the books in the bookcases.

2) I can put a quilt my mother made back on my bed and leave that door open, too, now that Miss A won’t be here to try to turn the bed covers back on her own. She was never very good at that and so I have no bed covers, blankets or top sheets that aren’t torn.

3) I can give away the last bag and can of dog food, and the rest of the marrowbone treats.

At this point, you might ask, “Aren’t you going to get another dog?”

If you’d asked me that question up until very recently, I would have said, “Of course I am. And she will be a basenji, possibly about two years old like Miss A was when we got her as a rescue dog to keep Cory company.”

But now I’ve decided that probably I won’t get another dog for assorted reasons.

1) My mother’s practical voice that speaks to me inside my head from time to time says, “A dog ties you down.” This didn’t keep her from adoring our Dottie, a beagle-dachshund mix (we think) we had back in the 50’s and 60’s.

2) Caring for and feeding pets can cost a lot.

3) Walking a dog might be too dangerous for me, now seventy-four.

Here’s why I say that.

A few weeks ago on a beautiful afternoon, as Miss A and I were walking down the next street, I was gawking at a neighbors’ yard looking for signs of spring instead of where I was going. So I didn’t see that the pavement ahead was uneven. I tripped. I fell–so hard that I thought I’d broken my nose. Suddenly I couldn’t see from all the blood in my eyes. After a minute, I sat up and found a paper towel in my pocket to staunch the flow. I managed to stand up and head toward home. Luckily I met up with some neighbors who got me more paper towels and walked me and Miss A home. Soon after that, my daughter drove me to the Emergency Room where the doctor on duty put eleven stitches in my forehead. That, the worst of my injuries, came from my sunglasses grinding up my nose and into the soft flesh of my forehead as I skidded along the pavement on my face. The cranberry-juice colored bruises faded away in about two and half weeks, but I’ll be hiding that scar with bangs and make-up the rest of my life.

Luckily, I had no broken bones. I didn’t have a concussion. But here’s the thing. Next time I might not be so lucky. So chances are slim to none that I’ll get another dog, basenji or otherwise. I have walked a basenji in my neighborhood for thirty years, but Miss A will be the last.

Goodbye, sweet girl. We will miss you.

Myself as a Work in Progress

IMG_0972WiP Report # 13

Boy, howdy, how time flies.

When I recently checked my files, I discovered that it’s been a year and nine months since WiP Report # 12 in which I reflected on my decision to quit trying to go the traditional route of getting published with the help of an agent and editors.

As I looked over that blog installment, I couldn’t help but reflect on how far I’ve come as a self-publisher since I posted it. By July 25, 2013, when I posted that blog, I’d published only five Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mystery short stories as Kindle eBooks. I had also nearly finished writing Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel. But as I said in the blog, besides publishing Walls, I wanted to revise and publish Wings, its sequel; two or three Cinderella, P. I. story collections; and up to five more novels sooner or later. Also I wanted to write a contemporary series with a baby boomer amateur detective “before I check out.”

There’s nothing like the devil on your tail or at least time’s winged chariot bearing down on you to speed matters up. And it certainly helped that I’ve been writing with the aim of being a published author since 1986, so I had about ten novels and other completed manuscripts in my files.

Still, I’m a little amazed to report that in the year between October 9, 2013, when I published Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel as a Kindle eBook and October 9, 2014, I published three novels altogether including January Jinx, the first in a historical mystery series; two story collections, and an additional short story. All this added up to more than 300,000 words or the equivalent of 1,100 print pages. Plus in National Novel Writing Month, November 2014, I drafted a 50,000 novel set in a community college and tentatively called Fall into Murder. In the months since December 1, I’ve written another draft of Fatal February, the second Calendar Mystery. I missed my February 2015 deadline to publish Fatal February, but still I aim to have it out this year along with a third Cinderella, P. I. story collection, possibly a collection of essays about mystery fiction that I originally wrote for this blog, and a stand-alone thriller called Death in Shining Armor. Besides the sheer output, I’ve also taken on more of the tasks of self-publishing such as doing some of my own covers and formatting instead of hiring someone to do those things for me.

Perhaps most important, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself as a writer and self-publisher. For example, I used to get all bent out of shape with “hi tec anxiety,” but not so much anymore. I still beat myself up sometimes about my low sales figures, but they’re improving.

FYI: These five books are all available as Kindle eBooks and trade paperbacks at Amazon.com. If you enjoy these novels and stories, please review them. Even a few positive words help.

Till next time. Best, Juliet.

P. S. Didn’t my daughter do a beautiful job on the cover of January Jinx?

Diabetic? Who, Me? Part 3

Reducing the Risk

“The doctor says to keep doing what you’re doing and come see him in three months,” said my doctor’s nurse over the phone a few days after I’d had a follow-up blood test to the one of March 21, 2014, that showed me at high risk of developing diabetes.

All right! I thought.

Now, if you’ve read my original blog post of March 26, 2014 on the subject, you know that my initial response to the question “Diabetic? Who, Me?” was “No way” quickly followed by some research and the realization that I had indeed developed some symptoms of pre-diabetes including blurred vision, a ravenous appetite for sweets, and injuries slow to heal. And if you’ve read my follow-up blog of June 26, 2014, you’ve heard about some progress that I’ve made toward reducing my risk of developing diabetes.

Three months later, I’m happy report even more progress.

Following the eating plan designed just for me by a registered dietitian, I’ve lost a little more weight for about 12% of my starting weight. My BMI is now 22.7, well within the normal range. These stats sound good to me, so I’ve switched from weight-loss mode to weight-maintenance mode.

And I’m also happy to report, finally my waist measurement has dropped below 35 inches, pretty good for a woman whose waist has always been just two or three inches less than her hip measurement. (Like my Jazzercise instructor who came up with the line: I’m not shaped like an apple or a pear. No indeed, I’m shaped like a banana.)

The other day it just felt so good to put two pairs of slacks and a pair of shorts in the Goodwill giveaway bag because honestly I can’t keep them up anymore unless I tightly cinch my belt, not a stylish look. Right now, I’m wearing a new pair of cropped pants in the next size smaller than most left in my closet. And the belt I’m wearing is four notches in from where I used to buckle it. Hey, let me get up and do my happy dance.

Okay, that’s done and I’ll also report that my vision is no longer blurred and I don’t have any pain in my hands or even much stiffness. (T. V. has improved so I’m knitting more and that helps.) I did crave sweets the other evening, but I quickly dispelled the craving by eating a clementine.

All that said, I must admit to some disappointment when I actually read the report on my Hemoglobin A1c level. It has now dropped out of the high risk for diabetes zone into the increased zone, but only by two points, from 60 to 58.

Still that’s progress. And I will continue to do what I’ve been doing. Here are some things that have helped me make progress.

My daughter and I limit eating-out to three times a month. Most of our meals we prepare at home. One of my friends complimented me on the discipline required to lose weight. But honestly, it mostly just takes time: time to plan meals using my eating plan, to grocery shop, to fix meals, to clean up afterwards, and to record the calories and the carbohydrates I take in. A tip for success from me to you: Weight Watchers and Real Simple recipes help me get nutritious, enjoyable meals on the table fast.

Also, I try to stay on my feet and moving around at least three hours a day. My activities include walking the dog three times a day, Jazzercise three to four times a week, grocery shopping two or three times a week, and daily meal preparation. (Hey, it all counts.) Another tip from me to you: to avoid mid-exercise-class low blood sugar and subsequent collapse drooling flat-out on the floor, thirty minutes before class, I snack on a serving of Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt: 80 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein. So good. (Peach is my favorite.)

Diabetic? Who, Me? Part 2

Not If I Can Help It

It’s been three busy months since I posted my previous blog about being diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Since then I’ve nearly finished my WiP, Wings, the sequel to Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel; lost more weight–altogether 14 pounds or 10% of my starting weight; and dropped my BMI from 26 to 23. I’d like to brag that I’ve brought my waist measurement below 35” but I can’t. Still, several pairs of my slacks or shorts that once were too tight now fit comfortably in the waist. Others that fit before now practically slide off unless I secure them with a belt. This feels good.

More important, some of the symptoms of pre-diabetes that worried me three months ago have gone away. I haven’t had a sweet tooth fit for quite some time. My vision is no longer blurred. And I no longer have the scary pain in my fingers and left big toe.

How did I manage these positive changes?

1) I told people about my pre-diabetic diagnosis, both through my previous blog and in person, to friends and to strangers as well. From that openness came an awareness of just how many of us are touched by the disease in some way. For example, at a recent meeting of five people, one is pre-diabetic, two are diabetic and one has a spouse who is diabetic. At lunch recently, two of my old friends revealed they are pre-diabetic.

From my openness, I also received valuable advice. For example, my daughter and I went out to eat one evening. And when I’d revealed my situation to our server, he said, “I’ve been diabetic since the day I was born” and pulled an insulin pump out of his pocket. “But with this, I can eat whatever I want.” He calmed my fears of blindness and amputations and helped me make a good choice for my dinner.

Thank you all for your help, kindness, and advice.

2) I did some soul-searching. In my previous blog about diabetes, I mentioned my incredulity that I could have this problem. But a little reflection showed me that I didn’t always eat right, my weight was up and I was spending more time than usual on my butt at my computer while I worked on the WiP. Also in the past I added a whole bunch of stress in my life by trying to do all the many things required of a successful self-publishing writer. These tasks include writing, editing, and marketing through social media and producing blogs regularly. I’m even doing my own covers, for heavens’ sake. But around the first of the year, I had the wonderful epiphany that while I need to do these things, I don’t have to do them all at the same time! What a relief! I’m so pleased I realized this and removed a ton of stress from my life. And stress can cause diabetes. I also realized that it’s taken me years for me to get to that score on the blood test and it will take time to lower it.

3) I actively sought information on the subject. I went on-line several times to investigate it and also talked to some experts. For one thing, I made a follow-up appointment with my physician to discuss my situation. Something he said really struck me. In my previous blog I concluded that if I, an active person who watches what she eats, can be pre-diabetic, no senior is safe. When I expressed my disbelief about being susceptible to diabetes, my doctor said, “You’re susceptible. You live in America.” This stunned me at the time, but it’s true. The American lifestyle has led to record rates of obesity. None of us is safe from the threat of diabetes.

One of the most effective things I’ve done so far is visit a registered dietitian. Because I’m not actually diabetic, Medicare wouldn’t pay for this visit. But since my doctor had arranged the referral, the medical center charged a discounted rate. And it was one of the smartest $54 I ever spent.

The dietitian explained how the pancreas processes the food we eat, often less efficiently as we age, especially with starches and other carbohydrates. She introduced me to some useful products that will help me achieve my goals. And she designed a food plan specifically for me, based on my record of what I ate the day before our visit. Thanks to that food plan, I’ve been able to lose a pound a week steadily without the sense of deprivation some diets I’ve followed in the past have produced.

4) One piece of advice that I received soon after I posted my blog about being pre-diabetic came from my fellow senior and self-publisher, the radiant Edna Bell-Pearson, who said that when she’s faced with a problem like mine, she does something about it. So I’ve been quite pro-active in my attempt to reduce the threat of diabetes by very careful meal planning and by tracking both the calories and the carbohydrates in nearly everything I eat. This can take time. It can be tedious. I might not do it forever. And ultimately, I might have to go on medication. But I’ll continue attacking this problem because I have many more books to write, publish and promote in addition to Wings, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Best, Juliet

 

 

Diabetic? Who, Me?

Last week the nurse from my doctor’s office called me and said that my recent blood tests indicated that I was at extreme risk of developing diabetes.

My immediate reaction was “Diabetes? Me?” followed immediately by “Baloney.” Actually, I used a different expletive though it also starts with the letter b. My daughter used the same word when I told her the news.

Why?

It’s like this.

I exercise regularly. This places me among the 10% of Americans who do so. Specifically, I walk our dog 40 to 60 minutes a day, barring snow, heavy rain, or a polar vortex. I go to Jazzercise 3 to 4 times a week. I’m also on my feet grocery shopping 2 to 3 times a week plus preparing meals and cleaning up after those meals every day. I don’t watch lots of t. v., averaging maybe an hour an evening. I’m a self-published writer, but I try to limit my computer time to three to four hours a day.

I eat right. Those five servings of fresh fruit and veggies a day everybody is supposed to eat? I get those, consistently, and I’ve done so since I joined Weight Watchers in 2006. We’re not vegetarians, but I limit the amount of lean red meat I serve in favor of chicken, seafood, and pasta. We do eat a ton of cheese, but I take medication for cholesterol. We have a can of ginger ale in the fridge and a few more cans in the garage in case one of us gets the flu. But I haven’t had a Coke since 2010 and even then it was a Diet Coke. I haven’t had a beer or a glass of wine in at least a year. I read the labels on food at the grocery store, vigorously watch my salt intake, and avoid prepared food that has sugar of any kind. Before I retired in 2004, we ate out two to three times a week. Now I eat out three times a month.

I maintain a close to normal weight. At the time of that nurse’s phone call, I was about 7 pounds over my Weight Watchers’ goal weight. In the five days since then I’ve lost a couple.

Finally, neither my mom nor my dad developed diabetes in their senior years though they lived to be 94 and 87 respectively. (I am now 72.)

My conclusion after hearing the news that I could develop diabetes? If this can happen to me, no senior is safe.

Even though in denial, I immediately took some measures against this ailment I didn’t think I could possibly get.

I extended my dog walks somewhat and set the timer on my phone to make me get up from the computer every hour to do some household tasks.

It was painful, but I went to the cupboard and got out the wonderful Green and Black’s organic chocolate bars I recently bought at Whole Foods. “Here,” I said to my daughter. “Take them somewhere so other people can eat them.”

The day after the call, I got out my old Weight Watchers stuff, figured my 5% and 10% weight loss goals, and started tracking.

The denial phase lasted until I went online and read up on the symptoms of incipient diabetes.

I’m not drinking or urinating excessively, but a few weeks ago I developed an incredible sweet tooth.

When I took the eye exam during my doctor’s visit, my vision seemed blurred. This I ascribed to a faulty fit of my current pair of contact lenses.

Recently I’ve had considerable pain in my hands. About a month ago, my daughter and I watched A Hijacking, an incredibly suspenseful film. As is my habit while watching t. v., I was knitting a scarf. I must have really clenched up on those number 9 needles because the next morning my fingers were so knotted up I couldn’t unfold them without considerable pain. My hands are now pretty much back to normal, but for the last few weeks I’ve had chronic pain in my left big toe and some in my right that can’t be explained away.

As for the lack of genetic predisposition for diabetes, my mom and dad didn’t develop it, but maybe people elsewhere on my family tree did.

So for now I’m assuming that the test results were correct, tracking my calories, avoiding sweets, and gathering information. These measures don’t mean I’ve arrived at acceptance. Actually, I’m pretty angry about this whole deal. I’ll tell you why in the next installment of my blog.

Should You Self-Publish?

Earlier this month, when the wonderful Mysteryscape Bookstore held a Local Author Fair, a baker’s dozen of self-published and small-press-published writers came together to promote and sell their books. During the afternoon, as I sat there behind a display of my books, a tall, dark-haired young man asked me if he should self-publish his novel when he finished it. “Or should I try to get an agent?”

I couldn’t answer either question, certainly not with an unequivocal “yes” or “no.” Too much involved. When I taught Creative Writing, for instance, I spent an entire unit on marketing.

Now I’ve had time to think about his first question and to reflect on what I’ve learned this year as a publisher of my own fiction. And I have to say, “Don’t be in such a hurry, young man. Give yourself time to learn your craft and pay your dues. As the sayings go, it takes ten years to become a writer; you need to spend 10,000 hours on any art or craft to master it; you must write a million words to learn how to write. So, the novel you self-publish now probably isn’t the best book you could write. You might not want it out there embarrassing you as you continue your career.” This sounds like good advice for a young writer to me.

But what if you’re not such a young writer? What if you’ve been writing for at least ten years, spent at least 10,000 hours mastering the art and craft of writing, written at least a million words? That is, what if you’re more like me? I wrote my first novel nearly forty years ago, and I’ve been writing fiction steadily since 1986 when I drafted my second and third novels. I’ve completed ten novels and forty to fifty short stories. (I don’t have time to count my poems, nonfiction pieces, and the journal entries that fill well over a hundred notebooks.) Now retired, I try to write 20 to 30 hours a week.

As for the young man’s second question, from time to time over the last twenty-five years or so, I’ve attempted to get an agent, and I haven’t managed to interest any. Actually, I take that back. I did interest a couple, but neither of those nice ladies sold the project she submitted to publishers for me. And now the whole process has become demoralizing. The rejection depresses me, makes me doubt the worth of my work, and interferes with my writing. So I’m not doing it anymore.

I’m not alone in that decision. At the Local Author Fair where the young man asked his two questions, I sat next to Edna Bell-Pearson, author of the self-published Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams and Other Stories, selected as one of 150 best Kansas books. A senior as I am, Edna observed that she simply didn’t have the time “to fool with those people.”

And so, though the technical aspects of publishing my own work can make me exceedingly anxious and the marketing aspects of being my own publisher like tweeting, branching out, linking in and befriending folk also take time away from my writing, I will continue to self-publish. Why? For one thing, I hope that the same time-on-task that made me a writer will also make me more comfortable with publishing and promoting.

And I already have lots of well-written fiction to bring to you, dear reader. This includes January Jinx, the first book in a series of historical mysteries set in Kansas City around 1900. Look for it next month. Meanwhile you can read Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel as an eBook (www.amazon.com/dp/B00FQLQ2WI) or in print (ISBN: 978-0-9899504-1-1) and twelve stories that feature Cinderella as a p. i., her loved ones, her friends, and an enemy or two in Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories (www.amazon.com/dp/B00GMMUSTI and 978-0-9899504-4-2).

Hello Again, World!

Two months ago some pervert hacked my website and I was so offended that I took my website down. But more than one person has pointed out that a writer who publishes her own work needs a presence on the Internet, some central address beyond her Facebook and Twitter pages. So here I am again.

In this first installment of my blog reborn, I want to talk about what sorts of posts I made in the past before I lay out plans for future posts.

(Please don’t worry about my losing my previous installments. When I was in graduate school at Ohio State, I had a class with Richard D. Altick, the great Victorian scholar and author of the lively book called Scholar Adventurers. Altick warned us in no uncertain terms to make copies of our dissertations, even going so far as to advise us to keep a copy in the freezer in case the house burned down. So now I print hard copy of all my work. I also back up all my work on my computer and to other devices that now include an auxiliary hard drive. If the house burns down, I can grab it and run. This discussion reminds me to copy my finished books to the flash drive I keep in my purse in case the house burns down while I’m out and about.)

Back to my past blog: For nearly two years, as Juliet Kincaid, Fiction Addict, I wrote about the lessons that I learned from the books I read–mostly mysteries–that help me write my own, fairy tale mysteries featuring Cinderella, P. I., twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball. These essays often included very detailed analyses of fiction I admired along with how I could apply those insights to my own work.

They were lots of work, you bet your bippy, sweetheart. For instance, I spent nine hours (three writing sessions for me) on a piece about James Church’s superb A Corpse in the Koryo. These nine hours were in addition to reading it.

Downside: Spending that much time every other week on somebody else’s work severely cut into my own writing and slowed my progress. And I simply can’t take the time to do that sort of blog now. (However, this past year, I’ve occasionally republished some of these blogs as “golden oldies” with updates on the writers’ careers and how I’m doing on my own “Work-in-Progress.” I might do some more of that.

Later in 2012 I also began to write about myself as a Late Bloomer, someone launching a career after age 60. Also I reflected from time to time on aging generally including where I’ve been, where I am right now, and where I’m going.

These feel more comfortable to me for future subjects though I reserve the right to write about just anything I please. Hey, there are among the perks of being an old gal.

Enough for now. You can expect more installments on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month. To receive notifications, please subscribe to my blogs through RSS.

Best, Juliet

<> <> <>

Currently available as Kindle eBooks are five of my fairy tale mystery stories including the first, “Cinderella, P. I.,” and Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel. All feature Cinderella twenty years, three kids and a few extra pounds after the ball.

You’ll find “Cinderella, P. I.” at www.amazon.com/dp/B00BAZPXEM and Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel at www.amazon.com/dp/B00FQLQ2WI.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulietKincaid. Friend me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliet.kincaid.