Catching Up

 

I’m continuing toward my goal of writing 50,000 words of fiction in June for the Southern Cross Novel Challenge! I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this past week, with many exciting moments.

However, I’ve been remiss in posting blogs lately…the latest episode (at the top) tells why. It took me two videos and a good amount of Kleenex to explain. ūüôā

 

Day 26 – Origins, Part 1

Day 26, and I explain the origins of my novel–and something of my own life’s story.

 

 

Origins, Part 2

 

Day 21 – Environment

Day 21 of the Southern Cross Novel Challenge–a day when I realize that environment has an effect on the words I write.

 

 

Day 19 – Dreams Come True

Day 19 of SocNoC–and I’m seeing the goal within reach!

 

 

Day 16 – We’re Halfway There

Day 16 of the Southern Cross Novel Challenge–halfway to the end of the month, and halfway through the goal of writing 50,000 words of fiction!

 

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor, All Rights Reserved

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Bound to Overcome

I’ve had a lot going on in my life, thoughts, and goals just over the past couple of weeks. Not much would show on the surface—but between my ears and behind my eyes, the world is a different place. Maybe because I’m different inside. I know it’s been building for some months now—like the Lord is putting together the puzzle pieces of my life, one day at a time.

This is something I’ve been hoping for, aiming towards, for most of my life. I had an epiphany at age 17, suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my career and life, and started working towards that. A few years (ahem, be polite, don’t run over to my About page) and several setbacks later, I had not progressed very far past those goals. Make that “visibly.” Between the ears and behind the eyes, the world was quite different. But looking at my life from the outside, at a casual glance, not much of that showed through.

For the majority of my young adult years, I lived most of my life inside my head, between my ears, and within a few walls. I was a homeschooled highschooler (personal choice). When I graduated, I was tested at a college level, so I chose to postpone college and dive into the dreams I couldn’t wait to dig at. I spent the next four years living at home with my family, attending business seminars, reading voraciously, and pursuing an advanced art education through studying others’ works and writings. In other words, I homeschooled myself through college, after all.

In the meantime, I was writing. Writing fiction novels and graphic novel scripts. I was drawing, drawing like crazy throughout my days. Doing character design for my graphic novel series, studying comic book publishers so I would know the one I wanted to plug it to. I had my sights set on the independents, because keeping my rights was important to me–I wasn’t writing for the present, I was building the foundation of a future. So I could wait a little, sacrificing present income opportunities in order to invest in a bigger future. For that “income,” I started my own Amway business and did freelance artwork, to tide me over while I wrote. How did that go? Well, let me just say I’m grateful my family let me live at home.

Some of my lack of success was caused by the fact that I was incredibly shy and introverted, trying to build a career in very extroverted fields. But I had that dream—I thrived on inspiration, and let it fuel me forward, even when the shyness made it almost painful to do so. As I look back now on the person I was then, I wonder if I could have made it work, despite my weaknesses? But at the time, I didn’t get the chance.

During my teens and early twenties, my family and I spent ten years as caregivers for my grandparents. My grandmother had dementia, and eventually forgot who we were. My grandfather died unexpectedly from a sudden onset of cancer. There were other hard situations we were overcoming as a family then, too. I learned many things, and grew a lot between the ears, behind the eyes, in those years—things that would never show up in my resume or bank account. They delayed my dreams. But they made me stronger, bolder. Partially because, once you’ve been hurt in certain ways, you stop being afraid of certain things. You lose some sense of self-preservation…you kind of don’t care what happens to you. So you get braver, and bolder.

I moved on with my family (my choice, turned down a graphic design job to do it). I looked at life as a new opportunity—I felt set free from the hurts of the past, and felt I could finally begin achieving my goals for the future. But anyone who thinks they can emerge from an emotionally abusive situation and hit the ground running is deluding themselves. It took a month-long bout with pneumonia and a dance with a nervous breakdown to teach me that.

And yet…I came away from those days, and emerged into a patch of brighter light. Suddenly I was free to return to my dream, and I did, with my whole heart. Back to the writing, back to the drawing. Back to the quibbling freelance work to bring in a bit of income while I lived with my patient family, too; but back to filling my days with creativity and excitement, and plans for a big future.

Enter carbon monoxide poisoning.

This was a setback that not only invaded its presence upon my goal plan, and delayed my dreams yet again; this monster literally stripped me of the ability to achieve my dreams. I forgot my stories. I lost my words. My hands forgot their skill and learned a new weakness, a new tremor that would forever mar my drawing. I was one year away from publishing a fiction novel and was beginning to draw the final draft of a graphic novel when I had to stop, and teach myself how to write and draw all over again.

Starting all over, yet again. When obstacles keep blocking your pathway, over and over, and you have to stop, and start, and stop again, you have a tendency to get tired. When you keep falling face-first into the mud, it gets very hard to see the way ahead. Dreams and faith and hope will carry you far, through many hard times…but Discouragement can be a towering monster. It can overshadow everything. When things get so very dark, the light seems to fade away, and you begin to feel that the darkness is all there is, all there ever will be anymore.

Yet the light is still there—the light of dreams, and hope, and faith. It’s just being obscured for the time being. Somehow, someway, you have to climb up out of the mire and walk past that beast of Discouragement. It’s the only way to see light again. Oh, it tries to walk with you, mark my words—does its very best to keep blocking the light. For me, I actually began doubting the dreams I had held for so many years. I began to doubt the worth of what was between my ears, behind my eyes. And that’s a tough situation, because that was all that I had left in me. Without the dreams? To my eyes, if the dreams weren’t real, then I was nothing.

Enter God.

Not that He wasn’t there the whole time. Until I stand before Him at the end of this life, I probably will not understand the whole meaning behind everything that is in my past. I see glimmers, I get a few things; but some of the “whys” escape me. Somehow I’ve managed to cling to faith through it all. But then again I wonder—is it really so hard to cling to One who is gripping you in an embrace that will never let you go? He’s been there with me the whole time. And now, just when I felt like I couldn’t pick my face up out of the mud one more time, and would lie there and drown in darkness…it’s as if He’s saying, “Let’s turn the lights on.”

I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. Something has changed. Maybe it’s me. Yes, I’ve been working…imagine trying to scale a sheer mountainside by only using your fingernails. Yeah, that’s how I’ve been working the past couple years. So yes, I have all those years of work that must have been building to something. But they never led anywhere, to my thinking.

Until now. Something has changed. Something is different. Between my ears, behind my eyes, it’s been a long journey. It’s been…violating. It doesn’t feel like there’s much of anything left of me inside…just numbness, blankness, tears. Tears that flow easily at times. And fear…the inheritance of so many years of living life in the shadow. Fear that crouches and waits for the merest weakness to show within me…so that it can snatch my new life away from me. And fear upon fear, I am afraid that it has the power to do so.

But then I realize…there are arms around me. Strong, mighty, powerful arms. There is a vengeful love washing over me, shielding me, forgiving me the weaknesses that make me despise myself. Someone is holding me fiercely, saying the He is carrying me on through. Past the mire that threatens to envelop and smother me. Past the dark beast that wants to claim me. Carrying me forward to that beautiful light, which has been there waiting for me all along. He’s taking the emptiness between my ears, behind my eyes, and filling it with glorious things that I never dared to dream of, and can hardly comprehend. The dreams of my future.

And something is telling me that my future, at very long last, is here.

I’m sorry for the long blog post…but I think I’m moving forward on a new journey. And I must have needed to travel light.

What Am I Thinking?

I’m new to Twitter—only discovered it last month—but already I’m realizing what an amazing¬†tool it is.¬† Not only to help me meet interesting people, or keep in better touch with the ones I already know; not only¬†to expand my realization of the world and current events, or to give me an outlet¬†for burning off some of the plethora of minutiae-related thoughts that skitter through my brain every day.¬†

Not only all that, but one of the best things about Twitter is that…it…um…well, hm.¬†

What was my point again?¬† I’m fighting this cold tooth and nail, but it seized my thoughts.¬† Oh, wait—yes.

One of the best parts of Twitter is being able to track my thinking.

Many thoughts run through my head on a minute-by-minute basis. The sunshine sure does look pretty today, makes me feel brighter inside. I hope @susanreynolds is doing well, my heart is heavy for her but my faith is in the Lord’s healing power. I’ve seen Him do as much for others I know. Thank heavens for peanut butter, it really gives me a boost…and the two heels of bread aren’t really so bad together, it makes it kind of like a sweet roll. Oooh, Tree 63’s playing “Look What You’ve Done,” it’s soooo totally awesome. Those lyrics—I wonder that so often myself. What a pretty melody. Okay, I really need to get working on the book—I need a final target date by February, and that’s a lot closer than it seems. Been a couple months since I sat down and wrestled with it, since I’ve been working on the art and charity things. Wondering how I should start—I want to do a word count and recap, but feeling the pressure, wonder if I should fire in with writing first off? No, recap would be better, probably—get a big look at it, “see” it all at once—where it should go, how it should be—I remember working on my sci-fi book five years ago, just being able to “see” the entire thing all at once…not that I knew what all was going to happen, since ideas came as I worked along; but I could see it. It was clear. No matter how I try to push myself to be normal, sometimes I just wake up and realize what it’s like to have brain damage…it’s not the same as it used to be. It’s all furry in my head…I have to squint to see the stories now. LOL, I need brain glasses. Ah, that would be coffee. Coffee’s here, bless my Mom for bringing it in. Love my family—every one of them. But Lord, I wonder when I’ll find “HIM” and we can start a family of our own. I just know my brain will be better, come that day…not being unrealistic here, I just know. There’s something about happiness that makes everything clear. You can think with your heart, not your grey matter. I probably shouldn’t start thinking about that…I get too sobby. But it’s my heart, what should I do, lock it inside so that it can’t feel anything? Numb it like my nerves after the CO poisoning? I get into that habit sometimes…I’m so used to trying to control wild emotional swings after CO, that “emotion” has become something like “headache.” When you get a headache, you take something to make it go away. My body does the same thing with my emotions nowadays. The minute I start feeling something in my soul, my instinct wants to quickly “take an aspirin,” so to speak, to make it go away. Be strong. Steel the heart. Calm down. Think of something else. By all means don’t break down. But heartfelt longings aren’t the same thing as a mood swing. You’re supposed to feel, you know. You need to. So okay, back to square one: Lord, how do I make my day mean something? How do I not wind up wasting time bobbling around aimlessly…okay, aimlessly, that struck a chord. Write the goals down…keep following the plan. “This is my desire, to go deeper into You,” Tree 63 is singing right now, this very moment. “I am always in your heart. I am not my own.” Whoa, Twitter update, @susanreynolds is out of surgery and in recovery…bless the Lord, Hallelujah, as Tree 63 happens to be singing right now. Oh, no, don’t sing A Million Lights right now…Lord. Sob fest. No, wait, don’t turn off the heart, right?? Just grab a Kleenex. Sigh. Yeah, I knew it, crying. Blink, gulp, take deep breath. What was I thinking again? Oh, yes—oh, that melody is so pretty—I was thinking of Twitter. I read through my month’s worth of—Twitter update, @hackerjay, my baby bro, 6-foot-some-odd hunk of guy, but all baby brother to me. :-);-) Leaving work now, it sounds like he has Christmas Vacation. We had Christmas at Thanksgiving with him—wondering what he’ll be doing for Christmas Day? Gotta remember to ask. If not for IM and Twitter, I’d never know what’s going on with my siblings. :-):-) Ah, and there’s @war2d2, other younger brother, chiming in with “Merry Christmahanukkwanzaka everybody.” hehee. We’ll see him and his wife right after Christmas…oh, dang, I still have to get presents for them. Twitter update—good news about @susanreynolds! Praising the Lord wholeheartedly for that. Okay, back to the thought of Twitter…except I just thought of my book….man, I need to get going on that. I just know it will flow when I sit down and do it…get over that hurdle of facing it. Always does. Man, that will be exciting when it’s done! Will I even know what to do with myself when it is??? Uh…yeah…yes, I will. :-);-) Good Lord, there’s so much to do….writing, website, promotion…okay, yes, that voice inside just said “and WORKING,” bless it. :-):-) That means, GET BACK TO WORK RIGHT NOW. Okay, that reminds me what I was posting about to start with…Twitter gives me a way to track my thoughts in print so I can see what I need to change to make better use of my time, and make improvements in my life. Moment by moment, thought by thought, it’s hard to see the big picture. But when all those thoughts and moments are strung together, they weave a pattern and begin to make some sense. It’s not really my pattern…the Lord has a plan that He’s making. I can’t see it minute by minute…well, that’s not true, yes I can. I know the visions He’s given me for what’s in store for my future…I get too focused on my own failings and weaknesses, and don’t see that He can handle it, He can make something beautiful out of my screw-ups…I just need to keep moving, to work at it. But then I get so afraid…I feel so helpless. I don’t know where to go or what to do…

 

And that’s when all the words stop.

 

And He just embraces me in His love.

 

And He tells me everything’s going to be all right.

 

I’ll see it when it gets here. Like Tree 63 is singing: “Something invisible has become so beautiful.” And it will be more beautiful than I can possibly imagine.

So now I’m going to get back to work. And I’ll start thinking again.

 

But a little more quietly now.

 

Heating Safely in Frigid Weather

My thoughts and prayers are going out to anyone in the country who is dealing with the frigid ice and snow storms lately. I’m keeping in touch, well as I can, with friends in those areas, and every news report weighs heavily on my heart.

I’ve just heard from a friend whose neighborhood is struggling with ice storms. She mentioned widespread power outages and the dangers of hypothermia, which threaten residents—such as the elderly—who don’t want to leave their homes. They’ve also had reports of fires that were caused by people who brought their outdoor grills in for heat.

This news sent a different kind of chill through me—there’s another danger that many people may not be aware of, in this time of cold and ice. Carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. Many times the poisoning occurs when inappropriate grills and heaters are brought indoors, to an enclosed space without adequate ventilation.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion. Anything that burns can produce carbon monoxide. Fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, fireplaces, and kerosene heaters should be tested by the fire department, the gas company, or a heating technician every year, to make sure they are working properly. Also, adequate ventilation should always be made available—for example, kitchen fans that vent outdoors; chimneys and flues that are properly maintenanced; and windows that are opened a crack in furnace rooms.

But who has a window open during the middle of winter? When people want to heat their homes, they will be doing their very best to seal up all the cracks. This is danger enough simply with normal household appliances—but when outdoor grills or stoves are brought inside for heat, the carbon monoxide can accumulate and reach deadly levels.

If you know anyone who might be trying to use such methods of heating their homes, please spread the word about carbon monoxide safety. My family and I survived chronic exposure to CO, and came away with long-term damage. Yet we were lucky.

And I’ll keep the prayers going.

Keep Those Plates Spinning!

Hmmmm……2 am and I’m writing business letters. Yup, you can tell I own my own business.

But can you tell I’m an artist??¬† Not from looking at my eBay auctions, that’s for sure!¬† I usually like to keep a supply of fresh, brand-new art live online—which is hard for me to do sometimes, when I’m dealing with a challenging bout of carbon monoxide side effects.¬† Multitasking abilities are severely compromised.

Some of that has an effect on what I’m doing now, and explains why I’m up at 2am doing business.¬† When I can work, I try to get everything done at once.¬† But another major reason is that I’m crazy-busy organizing the upcoming Art for 1000 Wells auction on eBay.¬† Awesomely exciting, and my heart is swelling with gratitude and admiration for the many wonderful artists and artisans who have come on board for this event!

But I haven’t had too much time for art the past couple days.¬† Last night, though, I had a window of opportunity when my computer clutched during my attempt to update MySpace in honor of the auction.¬† PC was down—so while it “thought” about¬†itself for a minute, I grabbed my pastels.¬†¬†I have to remind myself that I’m also participating in this auction event, so I need to paint something!¬†The result of my sketchng time is not complete yet—but I have some work-in-progress pictures to share. Clicking the pictures will lead to a larger image.

Boy WIP (Work in Progress)

Original Pastel on Vellum Bristol paper, for the Art for 1000 Wells (TWBW) eBay auction Nov. 24-Dec. 4, 2007, by Christine Taylor (mousewords)

Step 1: While listening to Jars of Clay perform “Light Gives Heat,” I start with a loose sketch in blue pastel.

Boy WIP1 (c) mousewords

Step 2: While I don’t work from one particular photo, I study the faces of children for reference in bone and facial structure. Using the “rules” of anatomy, I make up my own person from there. Kind of like parenthood…sort of. :):)

Noticing that the skin tone I want has warm undertones, I define my sketch using yellow pastel.

Boy WIP2 (c) mousewords

Step 3: The fun part! Adding features. I love soft drawing mediums such as pastel, because it’s similar to doing sculpture–you “sculpt” a face with your fingers. (You know, Athena sculpted a child from clay, and the child magically came to life and grew up to be Wonder Woman. Hey, this IS like parenthood!)

Notice the bit of red in the upper right–I’m beginning to explore colors to find the right skin tones.

Boy WIP3 (c) mousewords

Step 4: Skin tones aren’t brown and white and red. They’re really made up of colors like green and purple. Colors that would make you go to the doctor if you saw them in the mirror.

I begin layering color over my undertones. The shadows are purple, so I begin using that to “flesh out” this little guy’s features, so to speak. I save the eyes till nearly the last, to preserve the whiteness of the paper.

At this point, I’m looking at it and thinking that I love the light, sketchy touch to it. I’d really rather not use the heavier application that I intended at first. That means, however, that I’ll need a delicate touch to build up the skin color.

Boy WIP4 (c) mousewords

Step 5: Time to turn the lights on! At this point, my little one looks ike a zombie, so I take a brown pastel and dash a soul into his eyes. When I’m drawing eyes, I just look right into the subject’s face and meet his gaze, then intuitively let my hand draw what I would see if I were really eye-to-eye with him. I literally feel my heart pouring out onto the paper when I draw the expression in a person’s eyes. I feel that a spirit has so much to say.

Then I take my purple and let my fingers shape the contours of this child’s head and face. The purple blends with yellow, making different colors on its own; while the blue shows through on his chin, making me think of the reflection of light from the surface of water. I like that look, and plan to preserve it.

Boy WIP5 (c) mousewords

He’s not done yet–needs cleaning up in the balance of his features, and needs more of a touch in his hair and skin tones. But that’s for next time.

3am…time for some bed.

 

Be Safe, Think Blue

 

'A Little Blue' by mousewords

 

Two main reasons my blogging hasn’t been up to snuff recently: Firstly, I’ve been busy planning a charity art auction.

And secondly, I have survived carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced as a by-product of incomplete fuel combustion. Anything that burns can produce carbon monoxide, which is also known as CO. A flame with perfect combustion burns pure blue—any yellow, orange, or red in the flame is a sign of incomplete combustion. A sign of the presence of carbon monoxide.

¬†The gas is called “The Silent Killer” because of its nearly undetectable nature.¬† But the name¬†can also¬†be considered a¬†chilling metaphor for its anonymity.¬†¬†¬†

CO is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States alone…yet when does anyone ever hear about carbon monoxide poisoning?¬† For myself, the only instances I had ever heard of were from old movies—when someone wanted to commit suicide, they locked themselves in a garage with a car running, or stuck their heads in an oven with the gas on.¬† I’d heard the term “carbon monoxide,” but it was a vague reference.¬† It had little meaning for me.¬†

 And then I survived it.

Thanks to old movies, “acute” CO poisoning—exposure to high levels of CO during a brief period—has received most of the recognition. But less well known—making it all the more insidious—is “chronic” CO poisoning, an exposure to varying levels of the gas over an extended period of time.

This is what my family and I experienced, four years ago. Acute CO poisoning can result in unconsciousness and death within minutes. Chronic poisoning hangs on for days, weeks, months…even years…masquerading as a plethora of other ailments. Some symptoms resemble those of the flu—headache, nausea, dizziness. Symptoms such as fatigue, numbness, tingling, forgetfulness, and fuzzy-headedness can be associated with any number of other causes. And often are.

Do you think your house is haunted?

Maybe it isn’t. Not by a supernatural being.

Carbon monoxide is a documented cause for complaints of paranormal activity. Hallucinations; feelings of foreboding and dread; sensations of a cold chill; unexplained noises. Each of these becomes apparent as CO slowly claims its victims.

What does all that have to do with blogging? The same thing it has to do with putting my mascara on in the morning. Or waking up in the morning, for that matter. Carbon monoxide causes brain damage—it robs your body of oxygen, resulting in hypoxia…literally, suffocation. As a result, among other things, I have a constant tremor in my hands—which makes using mascara a rather interesting experience. Four years later, I still suffer from fatigue and depression, which on some days make it a battle to simply get out of bed in the morning. My thinking ability is impaired—I can no longer multitask easily. When I try to do too many things at one time, I burn out, and can’t think at all. Hence, my blogging falls by the wayside while I focus on other things.

Believe me, you don’t want to experience this. As winter comes on, we heat our homes and crank up the kitchen appliances to bake things for the coming holidays. We focus on sealing up every crack in the house with the goal of fuel efficiency—but first, let’s focus on safety, please. Have your homes tested right away for carbon monoxide. The fire department and gas company will perform this test for free, and a heating professional may be hired to do the task, as well. If there is anything in your home that burns fuel—a fireplace, gas appliance, a kerosene heater—please be aware that it needs proper ventilation.

If you are experiencing unusual symptoms that you think may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning, go to the emergency room immediately. A blood test, if taken right away, can show evidence of CO. But time is important. The Silent Killer leaves the blood rapidly…even though the damage it has done still remains.

If someone you know is showing signs that resemble CO poisoning, please make them aware of it. A person who is suffering CO exposure experiences a limited ability to think clearly and make decisions. Victims of CO may seriously be unable to save themselves from the situation, which is why vigilance is so essential on the part of others.

For myself, I am everlastingly grateful for the person who saved us.

And right now, I’m living to be a voice about the Silent Killer.