Are you aware this October?
October – pumpkins, witches, cooler weather – and Disability Awareness month.
The above picture was taken a few days before my book signing for CC’S Road Home last Saturday. I’ve edited as it includes my friend Melissa who works at PJ’s Coffee and who helped me put together the event. I preferred to show my side of the photo.
Why? A better question is what happens when you finally see yourself, not even as others see you, because they don’t- see you I mean. But there comes a moment when you finally take a long look and try to process what life has dealt. Actually, the first look was not a long look, but a short one because I looked away after first glance.
But nothing prepared me for the first time I looked at this photo above. And honest to God, my first thought was ‘ I need to remember to make sure my right arm is in the picture and not the left. Not that arm – or hand.’ Why? Because, of course, it’s grotesque. Ugly. Deformed.
My second thought occurred the next day when I consciously decided it was time to give the image the time it deserved. Or so I thought. My appraisal did not change. It still looked grotesque to me.
(I will reference at the end of this piece where to read what happened to my arm and hand.)
Suffice it to say for now, my arm and hands are the result of a shoulder replacement surgery that went off the rails. In previous surgeries for breast cancer and neuralgia, I signed the consent form without blinking. For the shoulder, I paused and considered the possible consequences, like more physical therapy. I had just completed one year of PT for a regular shoulder surgery which didn’t take. On this day, I read over the lengthy list of negative consequences. I could write several pages about listening to your intuition, but not here. For now, it’s about reacting or dealing with what life throws your way.
It has been four years since this happened. I know no one is going to fix this. After three years of physical therapy, there are no miracle exercises to make me write with that hand. After two induction shock tests, there is no cure for drop wrist or a missing radial nerve. After a nerve replacement surgery and tendon transfer surgery, there are no more surgeries to fix it. I have total wrist drop and about 40% function of the arm and that’s it.
I can type this paragraph with my right index finger or talk into the laptop, but I cannot get my hand and arm fixed. I cannot make it look prettier in a picture.
I will tell you I have spent two days writing this blog post. Trying to make sense out of my reactions. The best I can come up with the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, the courage to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.
That rings true for tonight. What I can change is my attitude. My arm and hand still look ugly in that picture. I still cannot write with my left hand. I still cannot lift my arm to its original height or even halfway.
But there is hope in changing what I can. I can now type with the index fingers of BOTH my left and right hands. I have discovered and use WORD’S wonderful speech to text technology which recognizes my voice without additional effort. I am driving without additional technology and can reach over with my right arm to close the car door. I can use a Glide ballpoint pend and complete a lovely signing on my novel. I can chop onions, slice lemons, peel garlic and ginger.
This growing list is important to my daily existence and a result of my need to function and to be self-sufficient. And my acceptance of what I cannot change, and, yes, courage to change the things I can.
I started writing this blog with statistics in mind, such as sixty-one million adults in America have a disability. One in four women live with some kind of disability. There are more occurrences of disability in the South.
But today, I’m letting you into a snippet of my journey. The story of a person who faced unexpected life change and who tried to make the best of it. And in return, has learned a lot about herself.
Learn more about how this happened to Leah and how she completed her novel,
CC’S Road Home, on her website blog posted on 10/28/20.
It has been a while since I’ve written on my blog. , no excuses. It’s just been a while. I could write about all the reasons I can give for not doing what I should be doing, or think I want to do. That’s a waste of time because in the end, I always feel like what’s important is that I didn’t achieve what I set out to do.
Greetings from my desk in Metairie!
I would like to talk about the writing process, I mean the lack of it. Hold on. You may read something in this that applies to you even if you are not a writer. I published my first novel, CC’S Road Home, in January 2021. I have announced, or more accurately mentioned, that I’m working on my second novel. At a panel discussion last week, I told the audience I’m working on a new adult/women’s fiction book. Although CC is a young adult novel, she will now be 10 years older, 25 to be exact, and her mother Loreen is 10 years older, or to be exact, 45. So we have two women in a book who are still trying to reconcile and here comes the grandmother, Bess, or as my readers knew her, Gran, who is the mediator.
It sounds like I should have a lot to work with. So what’s the problem? The problem is writing the rest of the book. I wrote the first four to five chapters, which is about 5000 words, submitted that to my critique group, and received some positive feedback. I reveled in that glow until I went back to my laptop two days later and thought in my head instead of “letting my fingers do the talking.” I’m back at approaching my laptop, stalking my laptop, sitting in front of my laptop, checking email, getting another cup of coffee. You get the point.
So again, what’s the problem? The answer lies in a topic few like to admit. It’s about fear, and I believe many of us shy away from talking about it. In my work, fear that the words won’t come this time, fear that I’m not really a writer. In other words, it’s the fear of not being good enough. But for me, it’s also what makes a good writer. Questioning myself on the one hand helps me to rise to a level of striving for the best in me. It can also keep me from working at that level and allowing myself to give up today before I even begin.
In other word, letting what I call the “magic” happen by just typing and letting that place inside of me tell the story. May be my head or my heart or some place deeper, but if let it, fear will be kicked to the curb if I give myself the “go ahead” command.
It may be difficult for many to admit fear plays a part in whatever our work or purpose is. It sure helps to talk about it. So much so, I’m back at working on my second novel now.
My second novel ! Wow!
it’s hard to believe it is one year later since I posted on this blog. There are several reasons, some might be excuses, but for the most part, I got lost in the advance promotion and later marketing of CC’S Road Home. I would like to tell you about it. When your book is ready to be released about three months prior to launch day, you are able to order copies called ARCs or advance reader copies. These are books which you hope to distribute to critics, newspapers, reviewers, anyone who might help you talk and write about your new book and help get it noticed. You make a list beforehand and contact these folks. I worked on this, but was not too successful in getting the word out. I did get in touch with other authors and traded reviews; “you read my book and I’ll read yours” and we will trade reviews.
That worked well and I received some wonderful reviews, and i’m proud of them. As I worked on this I geared up working on my platform, hoping to get my work noticed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Sounds simple, right? It takes hours everyday to really work your platform the way you want to, all the while hoping you are not bothering people.
As I worked on my platform, I also started working with Diana Watson on my zoom January launch of CC. Diana is amazing in the truest sense of the word. She moderates writing groups every week to morivate and encourage local authors, and she is the reason I had a beautiful discussion of my bookon January 7, 2021. You can view the you tube version on my home page at this site.
More work ensued, but I apologize for leaving my website to tackle other projects since so many of you started following me here. I enjoy communicating about the journey towards getting my book out, and look forward to writing more about it.
More to follow. Leah
So starting a new book. What if CC’S mom is the main character. What if you add details you might have wanted to when you read about Loreen in CC? What year might it be? Why is she living in New Orleans? What is she doing now? Where is CC? Does Loreen have any contact with CC? Is ex-boyfriend still around? And so on. You are invited to add your thoughts to get me pointed in a direction. It’s your chance to write a book or at least add to it. Write comments on website on the blog page or email me at address on home page. You are cordially invited to be a participant. Best to subscribe on home page to make it easy to communicate with me on this topic or any topic.
Looking back on my blog last June, I wrote about my initial shoulder replacement surgery and the aftermath. For the remainder of 2018 I coventrated on my physical therapy and consequences of the surgery. I also announced my returning to writing my novel using the fingers of my right hand. I was not too keen on trying to write with oral methods even though friends told me I could do it. I could write email and journal entries, but i couldn’t seem to create my fiction orally. As I wrote in June, I completed some 42,000 words or the remaining chapters of my book with my right hand.
I return to my story because it is Disability Awareness Month. I hesitated to write this until now because there are so many folks out there who struggle with physical and mental disabilities. Some have been at it all of their lives. It almost felt like iI demeaned their point of view when i just have had to deal with this condition for three years.
But I have, and what I do know is that I can empathize more fully. I want to tell them how heroic they are. I want to say how angry I feel sometimes. This happened to me without any warning. i was supposed to come out of surgery with a sling and a fuller, happier life. What i came out of surgery with was a shoulder replacement, a nine inch scar housing a rod, seven screws and a plate that ripped my radial nerve leaving me with wrist drop. I couldn’t raise or use my arm and i certainly couldn’t use my hand. Angry, you bet.
Anger can be beneficial, don’t you think? It can get you into action. And that’s what i did. Got into action and had the third surgery. In February of this year, I had a tendon transfer to try to restore the use of my hand. Another eight months of occupational therapy and another wrist brace and I must tell you, i have greater use of my hand. more function, which makes the OT’s so happy to hear.
I still cannot write longhand. I type with my right hand and my left index finger which would drive the therapists crazy, but it works. i am writing more orally, dictating text and copy/pasting to whatever I care to. I didn’t even know i could copy/paste to so many places. I have pasted all over websites and business memos and every medium I can find, so ling as it gets the job done.
I said i was going to write about publishing and querying agents at then end of the June post, but I’m not. It’s Disability Awareness Month. I want to write about awareness, because what i notice now are the folks out there who need a helping hand. I am more aware now of the lady who can’t quite push the basket, the man who needs help to open the door, the person who obviously cannot read the paper he’s supposed to fill out. The every day people who need help and whom I can help, even when i just had use of one arm and hand. Now that I have partial use of that arm and hand, imagine what i can do. Let me never forget.
And to those folks who have lived with disability for a long time, for all their lives maybe, find a way to tell your story, to speak your story. You need to be heard more than anything.
I wasn’t going to talk about publishing, but let me tell you, when i started working with publishers, they didn’t want to hear that I write with one hand. They didn’t want to hear that I couldn’t write a long revision that day, that it might take three days. They just want the work done. That’s why we tell our story.
It helps me to write about it. And I’ve only been at this for three years – and i have my left index finger helping out. I’m going to continue my telling you about this. Life does go on, and as Maya Angelou said, “I rise.”
We surely do.
Interesting title, don’t you think? What does it really mean. As young children, we swore friends forever by crossing our fingers. Girls even had a sure fire method by crossing pinkies. Boys? I’ve heard they beat each other up and a bond is created.
What does this picture reveal? It was sent to me by a lifetime friend, Jim Ed Riley from Gatesville, Texas, who more than once in high school demonstrated he was a loyal friend. Little did I know back then in tenth grade, I would hear from him years ago in an article he wrote about his favorite redheads, One lady with this hair color was our favorite English teacher, and the other redhead, you guessed it, was me.
I would love it if Jim Ed would post that article here, but for now, let me tell you, just because we are life time friends, doesn’t mean we always stayed in touch. That’s the thing about friends for life. We drift apart. Jim Ed and I did. But when we reconnect, it’s like we never parted. More like we were lost in space, called time, and when we found each other again, that special friendship is still there.
Another surprising fact. We think we know each other so well, but friends for life can surprise each other. Jim Ed is a writer -and a good one. He is admin for Gus Koch’s Gatesville 1884 public group page where he writes about all things Texas, which I love, and bids everyone good night at the end of his day. And the pictures! Great! Why do I follow that FB page?
Even though I connect with its admin, I remember some of the followers from -how many years ago?- I follow it because I love folks who find a sense of purpose. On the surface, Jim Ed seems to be touting Gatesville and surrounding areas, but I think the importance is his linking people. Keeping them together, friends for life. I read some of the replies and posts, and amazed at what friends remember and want to talk about.
The group is a true respite. Sometimes a trip back in time, but also a truly quiet place to land. When folks friend to this group, they really mean ‘friended.’
I have a few other friends for life. mostly people I met at work years ago, Work is a wonderful place to bond. Mary always Mary, thirty years Mary. Y’all know about her. Pat, who amazingly in retirement does exactly what she wanted to do, not what others told her was best. Today , she lives in a lovely cottage she built and has tea parties with her granddaughters.
I was asked as a security question recently to write down my first very first best friend’s name. Easy , Mary Ellen. I don’t see her, but I remember. Boy, do I remember. We have some catching up to do.
But it was Jim Ed who kept my secrets, told me over and over, I could do whatever I decided to do, emails old pictures to me like the one above. He is there in that virtual space where we all need him. My friend for life.
Visit Leah on FB/LeahB.Eskine, twitter Eskineleah