Writer’s Alter Ego

Beyoncé has alter ego Sasha Fierce and I have Princess Olivia.  No, I don’t have a split personality disorder, thank you very much.

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

While I’m in my element combing through library stacks, browsing bookstore shelves and investigating every bit of information possible regarding angels and birds of prey, I’m not comfortable conducting research outside of those parameters, thus Princess Olivia was born.

Without her,  I would never have had the courage to take advantage of a wonderful research opportunity which serendipitously presented itself several years ago.

Princess Olivia has more cheek and nerve in the tip of her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She happily agreed to assist a master falconer for three weeks at a large Renaissance fair, but it was more difficult than even she anticipated.

First, the princess was required to learn the falconer’s vocabulary which included terms such as hoods, jesses, creances, gauntlets, and mews to name just a few and then she worked sunup to sundown weighing, feeding, training, exercising, performing and even rescuing the occasional raptor that had flown the coop via radio telemetry.

It was demanding work and not nearly as glamorous as the princess makes it look.  (Trust me, being trussed into a corset for ten hours a day is enough to make anyone cranky come nightfall.)  Birds of prey demand constant attention and owning just one of them is a full time job.

Thanks to Princess Olivia’s efforts and expertise, one of my favorite characters, a  red-tailed hawk named Simon now lives and flies about in the manuscript of Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

 I’m curious, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done to research a subject about which you intend to write?

Ululate – Writer’s Vocabulary Word of the Week | Robin Red Breast Update

This morning, after I finished swinging through the treetops looking for my husband Tarzan, I noticed that Momma Robin had left her nest unattended.  I seized the opportunity to snap a picture of her new babies.  It looks like the one on the right just hatched!  I’m so excited!  Please excuse me while I go beat my chest and give Tarzan an ululating call to tell him the good news!  (Ululate is my writer’s vocabulary word of the day.  It means to howl or wail, in grief or in jubilation.)005

Beating Words into Submission

My writing is very much like my cooking.  Sometimes I make a gourmet meal and score rave reviews from the hubster, and sometimes I flop in such an epic way that even my dogs can’t be tempted to taste my culinary blunders. (Here is Rupert, my five year old Shiba Inu, expressing his disdain for one of my more recent failures.)015

Each new day brings the possibility of a pleasurable writing experience and if the hubster is lucky an edible meal, but I can’t always count on either one of those things happening.

While writing can be effortless at times, experience has taught me that it can just as easily be complicated, if not downright arduous.  More often than not, pesky little things called words get in the way of my writing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore words, but words are sometimes mischievous and problematic especially after they have been poured out onto a page.  They enjoy taunting, provoking and confounding me, as well as posing knotty little problems for me to tease apart for hours at a time.

I spend a good portion of my day pushing unruly words around, and coaxing the ones which have gone astray back into line.  I have even been known to give particularly troublesome words a good slap and banish them from a sentence altogether.

By my hand (and red correction pen), words often suffer a cruel, but necessary fate for refusing to acquiesce to my wishes, but I really can’t be blamed.  When I am forced to chase words about a page and beat them into submission, it’s rarely worth the effort to keep them around.

There!  I’ve finally admitted it!  I’m not proud of my abusive behavior towards certain words, but I have found I have to be firm and let them know who is in charge.

FYI, I do not advocate, endorse or participate in violence towards any LIVING creature.  I assure you, I just mistreat words and that’s only if they’ve aggravated me to the point of frustration.

I’d best shut my trap before I dig my hole any deeper, but I find myself wondering if I’m the only writer that takes such a harsh stance with words.  I think not, but I could be wrong.  They say confession is good for the soul and remember people, let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone.

Staying Abreast of the Red Robin-Steve Irwin Style

I’m definitely no Steve Irwin.  I do not smooch snakes, collect bugs or enjoy skirmishes with wildlife, but  crikey I get excited about anything with wings!  Look!  There’s another egg in Momma Robin’s nest! 008

I risked life and limb, yet again, to go up to the roof and secure this picture for my blog.  Don’t worry it wasn’t too dangerous.  Fortunately, I have a zoom button on my camera and Momma Robin is developing a tolerance for my aerial routines.

Her choice of locations for her home had been on my list for a severe pruning when the tree service visited our house last week and after we discovered her hard work, the tree was spared, but it had been pruned just enough to afford me an excellent view into her nest from the roof.  She seems to enjoy the umbrella that I loaned her to make up for the branches we took away.011

She and I are becoming quite cozy with one another because bribes are not beneath me. I’ve been leaving juicy brown earthworms all over the yard for her.  By next week, dare I say, we might even be besties.  I’ll keep you all abreast of the situation. (Pun intended this time)

Why I’ll Never Like Cinco de Mayo / Traumatic Anniversary Reactions

For the last five years Cinco de Mayo has been a very challenging day for me, but from what I understand, “anniversary reactions” are common after going through a trauma.  Although I don’t generally flail, toss, turn, or disturb the peace after I’ve retire for the evening, I somehow managed to put my foot through a two thousand thread Egyptian cotton sheet last night. An incredible feat, (no pun intended) if ever there was one. 001

An anniversary reaction? What’s that?

Sometimes the memory of a traumatic experience can be so intense that when the date of the experience rolls around the next year, and every year thereafter, the person may suffer restlessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, or any number of other distressing symptoms.

The date of the infamous Cinco de Mayo that began my descent into unspeakable agony was May 5th, 2008. On that day, the hubster and I were informed that our only son … our beautiful twenty-four year old, healthy, strong, wonderful boy had a fifty-fifty chance of living. He’d had a bicuspid aortic valve since birth, but it had always been watched carefully by his cardiologist. “What happened?”

The doctor explained that a strep infection had lodged in his heart and eaten away both his aortic and mitral valves. In an attempt to save his life, the surgeon needed to perform a very risky operation in the morning.

No amount of nursing education or hospital experience prepared me to hear that my son might die. I found myself drowning in shock and pain. How had my son’s much anticipated short weekend visit home from NYC turned into such a fiasco? How could the world still be going on around me when my life had just been shattered? How could my son be in the process of dying? I couldn’t begin to comprehend it. As a mother, you can never be ready for this kind of news and the word “devastated” cannot begin to describe how I felt. Watching our son receive and react to the news was even more unbearable!

A much happier time for mother and son.

A much happier time for mother and son.

The nurses gave our son something to relax him and when he was settled and calm, the hubster and I briefly left the hospital to try to process the fifty-fifty chance that our son had been given to live. We weren’t hungry, but we wandered into the nearest eatery, a Margaritas Mexican restaurant. It didn’t even occur to us it was Cinco de Mayo until we entered the building. The manager greeted us at the door with smiles, flowers and balloons before escorting us into the festive atmosphere. Watching all the happy people partying around me while I worried about the possibility of burying my son, proved too much for me. I went to the ladies room and sobbed in a bathroom stall. I came back out and sobbed at the table, too. I just couldn’t get myself together.

After a sleepless night, I walked into the hospital feeling gutted. As the nurses wheeled my son into surgery, the gravity of the situation struck me, and I completely shut down. Had I just said goodbye to my son for the last time? I pulled a hoodie up over my head in the waiting room, put my fingers in my ears, and curled up in a chair with my head buried in a pillow for the next seven hours straight.


The post I made to commemorate the day in my son’s scrapbook.

Fortunately for me, we have amazing friends who came to the hospital to sit with us during our son’s surgery, and even though I had totally shut down, these darling friends were compassionate and understanding. They offered me earplugs and sat with me in silence solidarity.

The next day brought us still more bad news. We learned the electrical conduction system of our son’s heart had been destroyed, and that in addition to his two new artificial values, he would need a permanent pacemaker. The news left us reeling and even more grief-stricken for our child … but at least he was alive, and that was enough!

I don’t remember many details of my son’s hospitalization, and I am very grateful for that, but I do remember being panic-stricken and praying. I begged and pleaded with God for my son’s life to spared. To me, life wouldn’t be worth living if I lost any one of my three precious children. They were and always have been the best things I have ever done.

This story, however, has a very happy ending because five years later our son is alive, well and prospering, and as soon as the traumatic anniversary of May fifth and sixth comes and goes—I’ll be fine too.

Luckily for me, Mother’s Day is coming up. Hopefully, my three amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind children (who I have now just buttered up with the right adjectives) will chip in and buy Momma a new set of sheets or a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card if I promise to sleep on the floor during next year’s anniversary dates.

Springtime Procrastination

I am a prolific writer from late fall to early spring, but as soon as the temperature rises to seventy degrees or above, I have an extremely difficult time applying the seat of my pants to the seat of any surface in my house.

Writing, at least for me, is very difficult during the short New England summer.  During this time my concentration and self-discipline are severely impaired and it’s become obvious over the last few years that I may have to consider summering in northern Canada, Siberia or in the worst case scenario, a Russian-manned drifting ice station in the Arctic Circle.

Yesterday I climbed to the top of my roof to wash some skylights which poses absolutely no problems for me in the late fall.  At that time I scramble up the ladder, wash the windows and get back down on the ground like any rational person.   However, the instant I climb to the top of the house in spring, I find myself in the clutches of a reckless irrationality and this year was no exception.

Deep in the throes of my temporary insanity and dangling from the side of the roof, I snapped a picture of my newest neighbor’s home.  Poor Momma Robin seemed horrified to discover that she had built her new home next door to someone so willing to invade her privacy.  Now, I can’t be certain as I don’t speak fluent robin red breast, but I’m pretty sure most of what she screeched at me from another tree cannot be repeated in polite company and the word voyeur may have even been tossed out during one of her more colorful rants. 044

Then I decided to watch part of a little league game, chat with several neighbors who seemed very concerned about my safety, have a refreshing beverage and text a friend from my iPhone.  (It is amazing all the things you can take up to a roof in the pockets of the right sweatshirt.)

Today is another beautiful day.  I’ve decided to write outside until noon and pray for no distractions.  As long as the hubster remembered to put the ladder away, my feet will stay firmly planted on the ground and there is a distinct possibility I might get some writing done—well, that is after I have a cup of tea, balance the checkbook, pay some bills, take the dogs for a walk and clean that light fixture in the bathroom that has been driving me crazy.