Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Blueprint for Life

I don't generally make New Year's Resolutions because I very seldom keep them. However, I use this time of year to evaluate where I am in my life, where I want to be and what I need to do to get from one point to the other. I look at several areas-- physical fitness, financial, family, career, writing, and values.

This year as I look at my physical fitness I see that I am making strides toward increasing my fitness. In October I set a goal for myself of adding one fitness action each week-- for instance, eat one fruit item daily, work out 3 times a week, cut back on sweets and sugar. The only one that I have been able to keep consistently is working out 3 times per week-- I've joined Curves, signed up for their computerized individualized Curves Smart program and go and subject myself to the torture chamber three times a week. The only week I missed was Thanksgiving week, but I planned that in advance as a skip week. I was really proud of myself for going back to Curves the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I don't do quite as good at adding an additional item every week-- I've tried to add things such as walk up the stairs at work once a day or add a vegetable serving but I haven't been able to sustain that.

Now switching to financial issues-- my finances are a mess. In the last two and a half years I've been unemployed, started my own business, had a daughter get married, dealt with medical expenses and had to purchase two new cars. My credit is in the toilet, and I barely am able to meet my expenses. It's an area that needs a lot of work, and I need to force myself to make it a priority. Unfortunately, since it is such a big mess, I just don't want to deal with it so I mostly ignore financial issues. That is not good so I am evaluating some ways to improve my financial situation and trying to come up with a plan.

As I look at family issues, my priorities in those areas have really changed over the years. My family has always been my top priority, but as the years have passed, we've found different ways of meeting their needs. As the girls have gown into adulthood, they no longer needed Mom to be available quite as much as when they were younger, so I was able to start focusing more on my career and my education. However, now that the girls have left home, my husband and I are rediscovering each other. That's an area where I want to focus more attention-- on enjoying life with the man I love.

As far as my career goes, I'm in a real quandary right now. I have a day job as an HR Manager in the public sector, and want to continue to advance in that field. However I get more satisfaction and joy out of my night and weekend job of being a publisher. I really LOVE being the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo and wish I made enough money at it to quit the day job. But there is still an ambitious part of me that wants to be a major decision maker in an organization. Perhaps being the Publisher/Owner/CEO of Swimming Kangaroo will satisfy that need if we get big enough. Perhaps not. I just don't know for sure.

So what I'm trying to do is sort out the factors that I want in a job, the things I like to do and the things I am good at and combine them all into my perfect job. This requires a lot of introspection and a lot of just plain hard thinking. Once I figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I have to figure out how to achieve that. I need to be more active in networking organizations-- but first I need to figure out which organizations will help me get what I need.

Then there is my writing, which I've been trying to pick up again after taking several years off to focus on family/education/career. I have lots of ideas for books and stories I'd like to tell, but time is an issue. And I'm actually finding that I derive more satisfaction from publishing than I do from writing. So I have a major conflict that I am still trying to decide how to resolve.

Now the Values area is a broad area that includes such things as public service, volunteer service, personal growth and self improvement. I try to think before I talk, try to be nice to everyone. I don't really have time to volunteer, and I'm not much of a joiner but I feel like I would like to serve on an advisory board or commission. I want to make a contribution to the world and I have to figure out how best to do so in the limited time and resources I have available. I also have to decide where to focus my efforts because there are so many areas of need. I have to decide which areas speak to me-- and increasingly the areas I am focusing on are animal issues and church/state issues.

So my blueprint for the upcoming is to continue to work on my fitness goals, to get my finances in order and to decide what I want to be when I grow up. I'll check in with you next year and let you know where I stand on each area.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday Blues

The holiday season isn't necessarily a happy one for many people. I know, I am one of them. There are many reasons. The shorter days are often overcast and gray rather than sunny. Snowy or ice-covered sidewalks and roads make it difficult to get around, plus having to don all that extra gear... besides it’s cold. Other reasons include Christmas is coming and I can’t give all the things I would love to gift my favorite people, there are those who are gone from my life whom I miss, and it is all too stressful. Many people have more compelling reasons for depression, such as loneliness, isolation, failing health, and family or financial problems.

While mine is a mild case of the blues, others are more severely afflicted. If your depression affects your daily life and work, please get professional help. Even if only mild like mine, you might want to seek help.

There are also things you can do to help yourself and others in your family get through the holidays. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression caused by seasonal changes in day length, can be helped by mild exercise and getting outside even for a few minutes every day. There are full spectrum lamps that can provide relief. If your problem is with family members who upset you, don’t feel guilty about keeping face-to-face occasions limited. Be with people you like and who like you for the holidays. Don’t over plan entertainment and family get-togethers. Before shopping, have a sensible spending limit set for holiday gifts. Lastly, don't try to achieve the ‘perfect’ holiday, keep your expectations within realistic anticipation.

So, what you do to make your holiday more enjoyable? I'm always looking for better ways to survive the season.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Making and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

*****This article ppeared in Fredericksburg Parent, Jan 2005.*****

Tips for Making—and Keeping—New Year’s Resolutions
by Karina L. Fabian

New Year’s resolution-making is a tradition over four thousand years old. The ancient Babylonians made resolutions as part of their New Year’s celebrations, according to Charles Panati, author of Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. The favorite resolutions of this ancient people were to get out of debt and to return all tools and household utensils they had borrowed the year before. (Remember that rake I borrowed…?)

Getting out of debt aside, modern New Year’s resolutions seem to have gotten more complex. We want to lose weight, have a calmer family life, find new success in our careers, write a best seller--or all of the above. Is it any wonder so many resolutions flag after a month?

The bad news is that many of us make and break goals, in the form of New Year’s resolutions and otherwise, throughout our lives. The good news is that the problem often lies in the resolution itself. It may be unrealistic, unclear or somehow at odds with another life goal we’ve set for ourselves.

If you’re willing to try a resolution or two, consider these tips:
• Set attainable goals. Goals must reflect your abilities and resources, not someone else’s idea of what you “should” do. That woman in the magazine might lose 50 pounds in 3 months, but unless you have the time and will (personal trainers, organic garden, etc.) she had, perhaps losing 15 pounds in 4 months and keeping it off all year would be more realistic. When you determine your resolution, examine your life: what changes will you need to make to meet this goal? Are you willing to make those changes? If not, find a new goal.
• Set clear, measurable goals. A nebulous goal like “play more with the kids” is easy to set aside. “Spend one afternoon a week just playing with the kids” is something you can schedule, plan for—and meet. State your goal in terms of time, deadlines, measurements, or other concrete details.
• Expect setbacks. No one learns to run or read or balance a checkbook perfectly the first time, yet we continue trying until we have some mastery. The same goes for resolutions; remember that two steps forward and one back is still progress.
• Examine failure. If you constantly break your resolution, particularly if you’ve made and broken the same one over years, examine what’s keeping you from your goal. Does some other goal conflict with it, such as spending more time with your family conflict with your goal of becoming sales manager of the year? Is the goal contrary to your purpose in life—you find you can’t make yourself clean house every day because you’d rather make Play Dough sculptures with your child? If you find a conflict, re-set your goals to something more realistic, or, if the goal is more important than what it conflicts with, make some changes.
Sometimes, we have a subconscious reason for breaking our resolutions. Psychologists and communicators Richard Bandler and John Grinder assert that every aspect of our personality, even our bad habits, exists for some positive purpose. For example, a married woman may subconsciously believe that if she works out, she’ll draw the attention of other men--and attract the jealousy of her husband. Subconsciously, then, she believes that by staying out of shape, she is preventing conflict in her marriage. In such cases, the person needs to find some other way to meet that subconscious goal—in this example, if jealousy is an issue, they may need to resolve with marriage counseling, or she may convince him to join her in a her work-out program, so that they build their relationship along with their muscles.
• Get help. Resolutions are easier to keep when someone else helps you keep them. Instead of vowing to work out at home, make a deal with a friend to walk on certain days, or get a personal trainer at the Y. If you’re writing that best-seller, recruit a friend, co-worker, someone involved in the topic to read it—and deliver them a certain number of pages each week. Then you have a promise to an outside party to motivate you, as well as a person to get you moving again if you stall.

If you’re not a person for resolutions, don’t worry; you’re in good company--though giving back that rake wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My November writing

This year, I decided to opt out of NaNoWriMo and instead join my Guild's 30K for Christ project. 30K is more open-ended, so I could work on my last book in the Miscria Trilogy: Savior Psychic. it's been on my back burner for a year at least, and I'd felt both guilty and stubborn about it. After all, Miscria I: Asylum Psychic still hadn't sold; why bother? (Yes, the answer is "Bother because the story is in you," but some days, that's hard to remember, isn't it?)

At any rate, I didn't make the 30K goal, but I do think I won in a lot of ways:

Above all: I prayed about my writing more.

1. Once I made myself write, my characters led me out of a lot of plot problems I was having when I was just imagining things. It always amazes me how getting it on paper can make the problems seem easier to solve.

2. I pushed through some of my self-doubt demons. They will return again, I know. For now, however, I've conquered them, and each time I do that, they get weaker.

3. I dedicated some of my writing time to re-crafting my agent letter. It's much stronger thanks to some wonderful critiques, so I'll be ready to send it on in December.

4. And, hey--I'm 21K farther than I was on Nov 1!

That's really the goal of a writing month like this: to push past blocks, to face our fears and to learn that yes, we can do this. We've only to set our minds to our craft.

I'll have to slow down again, as I need to catch up on stuff I let slide, but I intend to keep forging ahead. I hope all who participated in write-ons like this continue to do so as well

So, to everyone who did NaNoWriMo or 30K for Christ, I salute you. We're all winners, regardless of how many words we wrote. Congratulations to all who participated!

Karina Fabian

Monday, November 26, 2007


I must confess, I haven't the foggiest idea what NaNoWriMo means. I put off writing this blog because I was hoping one of my blogging colleagueswould enlighten me, but it looks as though I am out of luck.

Okay, so I'll approach this the way I tell my kids to approach new words when they are reading. Break it down. "NaNo." Hmm. Maybe I'm supposed to write about Mork from Ork. I never actually saw the show, but I did see the one where he appeared on Happy Days, or was it Laverne and Shirley?

No help there. I'll keep going. "Wri." that's probably something to do with writing. Mork from Ork writes? Writing about Mork from Ork? Hmmm. That has possibilities I guess.

"Mo." More? Month? Missouri? Mork from Ork writes about Missouri? What would Mork write about Missouri? It's the Show Me state, and Mork probably has lots of things to show us earthlings about how to live. And it has a pro football team. It used to be the Cardinals, but they went to Phoenix. Now it's the Rams, which used to be in Anaheim and before that were in Los Angeles, which is referred to as LA. Hey! I could add another syllable to this month's topic, making it NaNoWriMoLA!

I'm not Robin Williams and I'm lousy at stream of consciousness ad lib. I think I've about taken this topic, whatever it is, as far as it can go. So from Texas, which is not LaLa Land, Nano Nano! and good night!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ginger, Enspiren Press, and all things nice!

Recently had the pleasure of cyber meeting a few new writers and editors over at Enspiren Press. One such writer who keeps me smiling and giggling is Ginger. To get a taste of her humor click on her icon to the left and visit her blog.

Ginger goes into the frenzied holiday season of gift-giving, that time of year where you need to have common sense, a wad of bills in your wallet, a list what to buy or else you'll end up with crap just because it was on special, an arm like Superman to push your way from the crowd...ahhh, don't ya' love it?

But for us writers it also means a turning point- a new year about to begin where we have another chance to begin anew with fresh resolutions to make. Well, I don't make resolutions anymore. Figure if I don't make one I don't set myself up for a boo-hoo episode. I tell myself the same thing once New Year's chimes in: I'll do the best that I can. I figure this covers it all and allows me to 'do the best that I can' in everything.

Now, I mention Enspiren Press and all things nice. The publisher, editors, and authors I've met so far are the 'all things nice'. It encourages me to find a whole group of writers and editors who are as giving, helpful, and gifted with a sense of humor like me. And this, for those who have heard my 'sob' story and know me, is such a delight compared to the ignoramus writers group I had joined when I first started out. Hogging and never sharing...ANYTHING!. Crits were basically what I deplore, "You suck!" Geez, thanks, now care to share what part sucks so I can hone it?

But what has this to do with Ginger, Enspiren Press, and all things nice? Tons. It's the season of giving and to be involved with a group that keeps your motivation and spirits high for a writer only intensifies the writing muse in you.

So to these newfound friends I say "Hello and Thank You!"

Lea Schizas

NaNoWriMo and Inner Demons

This year, I have too many half-done projects to start a new one, so I'm using the month (and the Catholic Writer's Guild challenge, 30K for Christ) to work on The Miscria: Hero Psychic. This is the third book in the as-yet-unpublished Miscria Trilogy. I've had the story in my head for two years now, but couldnt' make myself write it down. Even now, I've got mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I'm at 15,000 words and the story line is starting to take shape. I have a very general outline of events, but this always changes in writing.

However, it's not been a comfortable experience for me. You see, I've been trying for seven years now to sell this trilogy to a publisher or agent. So far, the best replies have been rejections. About half of the folks (and these are reliable agents I've checked out) haven't even bothered to reply to the original message or follow-up. So even as I feel driven to finish the trilogy, I'm also confronted by my personal demons: inadequacy and low self-esteem. Am I just kidding myself, wasting time and losing money on a hobby I pretend is a career? Other authors, some of whom I frankly think I'm better than, are well published in big publishing houses. So what am I missing--and why can't I seem to find it when I let the house go to waste and feed my kids too much pizza and burgers while I pursue it?

This is why I'd put off finishing this manuscript for so long, and now that I've dedicated my month to getting 30K words into it, I find myself battling these thoughts on a daily basis. Do I need a contract from Tor or do I need to give up, accept that I'm a fairly talented, but mid-range author, and settle for never seeing my books lining the bookshelves next to Mercedes Lackey's latest?

Second, there's the problem I mentioned above--no matter how carefully I imagine my stories or how detailed my outline, the characters change it when I actually start to write. Deryl has completely thrown my plans out the window--he's grown up in the months I left him festering, and he understands his place on Kanaan better than I imagined. Of course, that means I needed to revise the conflict--and I needed a new reason to send him back to Earth. Of course, no sooner had he solved that than I realized my Joshua-Sachiko subplot won't work: it takes too long and doesn't really add to the story. But it's fun, and it's the one I've been imagining for two years, so now I'm back to square one with them.

I'm 8,000 words behind, but I couldn't stand the house any longer, adn cleaned it just in time for thanskgiving weekend, which will mess it up again. The holiday season is coming--and for a squadron commander's wife, that means extra (though fun) obligations. I have a list of things to do and people to contact for CWG and the conference. I'm beginning to daydream about being able to split into four people. Such is the life of a stay-at-home writer/Mom. Frankly, it's probably about the same for anyone for whom writing is not a full-time breadwinning career. Still, despite the demands, the disappointments, and the inner demons, I wouldn't give up this life for the world.

I'd still like a juicy contract from Tor, though. Say a prayer, please.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Holidays that disappoint

Doesn't it seem that so many holidays disappoint. Christmas always leaves with a let-down. Birthdays are, all of a sudden, something to dread rather than something to look forward to (I had a fellow student in my fencing class ask me, the other day, why I was still alive as old as I am. I'm not THAT old.) Fourth of July's fireworks never seem quite as beautiful as they ones from when we were kids (although I'm sure they really are). But Halloween is always there and it's one holiday where you can make it exactly what you want.

I live in a diverse neighborhood just a couple of miles from downtown Dallas. For us, Halloween means kids in costumes. Some of the costumes are pretty bad, some are wonderful. Some of the kids are taller than me, but some are so small their parents have to carry them from house to house. For some, 'trick or treat' is about the extent of their English. But all of them bring smiles and a sense of togetherness.

In my books, magic is real but often dangerous. My 'return of magic plague' universe, for example, has the return of vampires, werewolves, trolls and others accompanied by a ramp-up in prejudice and discrimination. But the magic of Halloween is a happier, lighter magic. It's the magic of dressup, of play, and most of all, of smiling children.

I hope it's a happy day for all of you.

Rob Preece

The magic of Halloween

I know many don't celebrate Halloween for one reason or the other.

I love Halloween, not for what it symbolizes but for the simple reason it is the one day of the year where I can be a kid once again...dress up and become a zombie, decorate my home along with my children and have fun...see the kids faces when I drop those goodie bags in their Halloween sack.

I spend about two hours, spraying and teasing my long hair to stand upright...about three cans of spray later my hair is as stiff as can be. And yes, when it's time to wash that sucker I do regret it. But I wouldn't do anything different because I am having such a blast and this is what Halloween means to me.


There is a scarier side to Halloween with all the nutcases out there and I make sure to visit the homes of neighbours I've known for a long time. Many of my friends host Halloween parties to make sure the kids have fun in a safe environment. There are communities now who have their own 'block parties' and invite the children and parents to visit and join in the fun.

What about your side of the world? How does your neck of the world celebrate Halloween?

Lea Schizas
PS Our upcoming monthly discussions are:

November: NaNoWriMo

DECEMBER: Time for those New Year’s Resolutions –

JANUARY: Sidewalk Sales: are you a habitual ‘sales’ buyer?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let the Erasers Fly

I sm going to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and urge parents to take it easy and NOT get so involved in their kids' schoolwork. Before you start throwing erasers at me, let me explain.

I come to this position from years spent as a stay-at-home mom, working mom and kindergarten teacher, as well as just a plain old busy-body. I stayed at home with my kids for several years because I just plain wanted to. I enjoyed spending the time with the girls and look back fondly on those days. Every afternoon I would grab my two daughters, and we would do art projects together, or go to a museum or park or play a game or go for a long walk in the woods, usually overturning a stone or two to examine the teeming life underneath. It was our together time, our fun time. Of course, the activities we did had ulterior purposes- there was nearly always a learning component involved, but the main thing was the activities were fun. My older daughter still remembers the time we crowded into a dark closet and shone a flashlight on a glass of milk to show why the sky is blue. They remember the art projects and the games, but mostly they remember the fun.

When my older daughter started kindergarten, we continued our activities once she got home from school each day. However, we now had something else to contend with-- homwork! I was amazed that she had homework in kindergarten, but I would dutifully sit down and work on it with her every day. Of necessity it demanded a parent's assistance so if I did NOT help, I would be branded as a BAD MOM.

Well that was fine because I was home all the time so it wasn't an undue burden. However, by the time my younger daughter started First Grade, I was working part time, and my time was more limited. This was the year I became introduced to a new concept, that of the DAILY HOMEWORK FOLDER. Every day the girls would bring home a folder with their homework assignments. It was my job to go through the folder with them, help them with their assignments and then sign the folder each day to indicate that I was aware of what was going on in the classroom.

I balked at this. I had finished school a long time ago. The girls' homework was not my responsibility, other than seeing that they did it and providing help if necessary. I didn't need to read the same assignments they did, look through the worksheets or do a science project or social studies project. By the time I got home from work, prepared dinner for the family, did some housework, fed and walked the dogs, folded laundry, threw another load in the washer and prepared my own lesson plans for the next day, the LAST thing I had time to do was complete the DAILY HOMEWORK FOLDER.

So I taught the girls how to forge my signature. "Homework," I told them. "Is your responsibility. If you don't do it, you are toast. If you need help, I'm here for you. End of lecture."

Somehow both girls made it through the entire year completing their homework on their own without my ever looking at the DAILY HOMEWORK FOLDER. They were both A students. None of us ever told the teachers that I was a delinquent Mom.

Each year it seemed that the schools tried more and more ways to force parents to be involved in the classroom. Open houses, field trips, being a room mother during class parties and science fair projects were accepted and welcomed. Going up to school to photocopy worksheets for the teachers was not. (My suggested solution that the teachers not use worksheets was greeted with horror.) Looking over the girls' report cards and discussing their progress was welcomed. Going up to school during the work day to pick up the report card and sign for it was not because it meant that SOMEONE, usually me, had to take off work early.

I disliked assignments in which the entire family had to participate-- I resented being told by the school that I HAD to do something in my oh so miniscule spare time. In an era where being involved in your child's school is not just expected but demanded, I was a rebel. I can remember going up to the elementary school one day to work as "Santa's Helper" in "Santa's Secret Store." There was a group of moms there who routinely spent their entire days at the school. They photocopied, read to students, supervised the lunchroom, helped kids with art projects, and performed all kinds of duties for the school. One of the moms stood by the photocopier for the entire three hours I worked my shift. During that time she did nothing but photocopy and scold her preschool-aged child who spent most of the time strapped into a stroller. I remembered back when I was growing up that there was a woman my family made fun of because she was always in her car, driving her kids from one activity to another. She had a late-in-life baby and we laughed because we said the poor kid had never been outside of the car. I looked at this preschooler in the copy room and remembered back to the car baby of my younger days, and I thought, wouldn't these kids be better off at home, playing?

Parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure to be involved with their kids' education. I agree that it is important for parents to be involved with their kids, but I disagree that parents have to be involved in the classroom. If Mom and Dad spend hours of time hiking with the kids or playing sports or engaging in some other family activity, isn't that just as useful as spending hours sitting at a homework table together? If parents ensure that their kids are able to take responsibility for their own actions, doesn't that satisfy the need of the school to have kids who are well behaved and engaged in learning? If parents foster discussions around the dinner table about science or current events or history, doesn't that help the kids to learn?

There was a side effect of these mothers being so heavily involved in volunteering at the school-- their children were practically immune from being disciplined, and in many cases, their children were holy terrors- largely because they knew that they were safe because Mom was powerful in the PTA or Mom was buddies with the principal because of all her volunteer work. In several cases the teachers even told me that they dare not do anything to those kids when they misbehaved because they would get counseled by the principals.

Throughout the girls' school years I continued my rebellion. Nevertheless the girls always completed their homework, were exceptional students and were very well behaved. They enjoyed learning and still do, and for the most part enjoyed school. By forcing them to be responsible for their own homework when they were in elementary school, they picked up a sense of responsibility that serves them well to this day.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back To School

Now...I'm wondering how many parents are smiling as their children wave goodbye and head to school. I know I used to be one of those parents but not anymore. Let me explain.

During the summer, there are no worries about being late for school. No worries about what to pack for lunch. No worries about homework being done.

Come September, all these worries resurface. Whether you are a working parent or not, back to school means back to school for you, too.

I remember growing up where my mom, being Greek and not speaking any English, never helped me with my homework. I managed. With my children? Although I speak Greek, English, and French, some of these assignments all read like hieroglyphics to me. My oldest child will be 29 this October, and our school system, while all five of my kids were in school, had changed at least 7 times that I can distinctly remember...and I remember because it affected them in some way.

One year they introduce a French immersion program to begin at Grade Four. I always believed this was silly because a young child entering Kindergarten is like a sponge and will absorb more of a new language than a child who is around 9 years old. Well, wouldn't you know it...a few years later they changed it.

One year they decided to forego correcting children in their spelling until they entered Grade Three. Once again, I felt the school board was making a mistake. One year later, this new introductory system was changed.

There were at least three different math programs introduced and then scrapped a year later.

Now, you tell me if these new introductions don't affect a child's education in some way. I understand the need to grow and expand and try new things but you would think they would survey the parent committees for input. Anyway...

I praise teachers nowadays for they have a lot to deal with: funding is almost nonexistent, kids at a younger age seem to be having more and more stress, and many of the extra stuff comes out of their own pockets in order to try and offer their classrooms decent educational material.

So, does Back To School sound as yippee as you first thought?

Lea Schizas

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For Cat Lovers

From readers comments we get to meet other blogs and Roger B. left us a nice note about Branches of Life, which prompted me to check out his blog,

What a great blog, full of interesting articles for those who love cats. And tons of cute pictures of a variety of cats, as well.

Check it out and make sure to tell Roger that Branches of Life sent you.

Lea Schizas

Monday, August 27, 2007

Welcoming a New Pet to the Zoo

I am in love. No, that is too weak a word for it. I am besotted. I have a new man in my life-- or at least a new male, and like most great loves, I happened upon him when I wasn't looking.

You see, it all started with a cat. We were quite happy with our five cats, Chibi, Sir Robin, Toko, Gollum and Quinn, but evidently someone else decided we weren't happy enough. One morning while getting ready for my day job, I heard a ruckus from the kitchen. I walked out and found all five of our cats perched by the patio window, hackles raised, growling and hissing. Now I'm pretty good at understanding cat language so I figured there must be something out on the patio that had their hackles raised. (See, I told you I was good!) I looked out and saw another cat, a white and brown mix who was sitting pretty as you please by the pool. He looked in at our cats and then approached the patio.

Our cats went crazy.



The strange cat was not impressed. He ambled up onto the patio and proceeded to sit right in front of our cats.

They screeched.

He rolled over and started licking his private parts.

Our cats piled all over each other trying to get to him.

Bill and I watched the show until it was time to go to work. When we came home, the cat was gone, but he came back a few days later. And then again. And again. He started hanging around the back door and howling. We went out and petted him a few times. He was very sweet... and he wanted to come inside.

We started putting food out for him and named him George Caruso-- Caruso because he howled so loudly and George because that is what one of our first cats was supposed to be named except he told me his name was Charlie. Then one night it rained really hard and being the soft touch (sap) that I am, I brought George Caruso into my home office with me. I told him that once I took him to the vet and had him checked over, I'd let him out with the other cats. In the meantime, George relished in his new role. He was very affectionate and loved to sit on my lap and purr.

The first Saturday I could, I took him to the vet. They were VERY happy to see me. I figured the vet must be in the market for a new pick up truck. Actually I do him an injustice-- we have the best vet in the world, and his prices are VERY reasonable. It's just when one has as many animals as we do, there's no such thing as a cheap vet visit.

I told the doctor that I had a new cat I wanted him to look at. The vet had other ideas however. "Why Dindy, I see you don't have any dogs since you had Goldie put to sleep in January."

Well, he had me there. "That's right."

"Would you like a dog?"

"No." I said firmly. Bill and I don't have the time or the energy for a dog.

"Well, we found this pup a few weeks ago and he'd be just perfect for you."

I made a major mistake. I looked and found myself staring at the face of the cutest pup I've ever seen. He was a shar-pei, about 14 weeks old and was absolutely adorable. Before I could say "no!" he was sitting next to me and George Caruso in the car going to his new home.

It's been 4 weeks, and I've not regretted it. Wrinkles is the funniest, sweetest, most loving, most adorable dog I have ever known. All he wants is to be with Bill and me every single second of the day. If he can lick us and play tug of war and jump up on us, that's even better, but if not, he'll settle for being at our side.

Now this blog is supposed to be about introducing a younger animal into a household with older animals, which is actually something we have a great deal of experience with as I am the Mother Theresa of stray animals. At least once a year we bring a new pet into the home. Sometimes that pet integrates successfully, sometimes not.

Right now we have six cats. Nobody blinks too much when we bring another cat into the household because once you've got three cats, you don't really notice any more. (My husband, who scoops the litterbox, begs to differ with me.) We've only once had a problem with bringing a new cat into the house and that was when Ollie came to live with us. He was a young cat and we only had one other cat at the time, a very old cat named Charlie (yes, the one who was supposed to be named George). Ollie was very aggressive, and that caused problems because he would not leave Charlie alone. He constantly attacked poor Charlie, and it wasn't in play. We eventually had to send Ollie to live with our older daughter because Charlie was getting too stressed out.

Generally if you are bringing a new cat into the house with older cats, I would advise bringing in a kitten. All of the times we have done this, we have found that the older cats are very protective of the kitten. The kitten grows up looking at the older cat as a parent, and the older cat doesn't get all territorial with a kitten.

But what if you are bringing a new puppy into the house with an older dog? Quite frankly, it may or may not work. When our lab/chow mix, Atherton, adopted us, he was about 12 weeks old. Our first dog, JoJo, a border collie mix, was several years old, and he HATED the new puppy. JoJo hated all other dogs except for our cocker spaniel, Goldie, who adopted us a couple of years after Athie did. Everyone liked Goldie. It was impossible not to as she was the cutest, most adorable dog in the world.

But JoJo despised all other dogs, and especially that young whippersnapper, Atherton. Athie didn't understand- he adored JoJo. So Athie would follow Jojo everywhere, and Jojo would try to kill Athie.

We never were able to get JoJo to accept Athie, but we couldn't bear to give Athie up either. So we developed a rather awkward system wherein they each had their own room, and we would take turns letting them out in the house. It wasn't ideal, but we lived that way for the ten years that Athie was with us. It was very sad when he died, but I will admit that it was also a bit of a relief not to have to check to make sure Athie's door was closed every time we let JoJo out.

Every animal is different and each time we've brought a new animal in the house, everyone has had to make some adjustments. However, if one animal is fun, a houseful of animals is a never ending source of entertainment. So if you are thinking about getting another cat, get a kitten. If you are thinking of getting another dog and your current dog LIKES other dogs, go for it. It'll be more fun to watch than anything on TV!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How about a new cat

Several years ago our cat, George, went into a serious decline. He was older (17) and he stopped caring for himself getting all greasy and matted. A young cat appeared outside our door and, after ignoring her for as long as we could, we let Chloe into our homes (and life).

The two didn't get along at first--and never became close friends. But George must have found something to like about having a hot young female around. He started taking care of himself, started eating again, and became more active than he'd been in a year or more.

George isn't with us any more but I believe Chloe gave him two good years of life.

If you're interested, you can see pictures of (Angel) George on Kara's website: Click fun-stuff and then pets. You can also see pictures of Chloe and of Da Vinci (the bird).

Rob Preece

Adding a Young Pup to a family with a Senior Dog


Although I haven't been in this situation, recently neighbours of mine added two new minature collies to the family with a senior dog. I asked them why and their explanation was:

Colt, the senior dog, was sick and the thought of him passing away hurt them both. Thinking ahead they figured that having another dog in the house when the time came to put Colt down would be easier on them. Colt survived for two more years and before they put him down, they bought another miniature collie. Again, the explanation was for the other puppy, having been used to having a dog companion, they figured this upcoming change with Colt missing in the family would help in some ways.

I know now that I regretted not having bought a dog after our family pet passed away almost fifteen years. And now that we have our little Daisy, I know that when the time comes years from now, I will prepare myself by bringing in a new one to focus on when she passes away.

How or what effect does this have on a senior dog? I wish I knew and looking forward to reading everyone's input on this.

Lea Schizas

Monday, July 30, 2007

Confessions of a Fat Lady

Like others who have posted on this topic, I used to be skinny. I kept my weight between 110 and 125 pounds for many years. And I ate whatever I wanted. The sad thing is, I didn't think I was skinny. I would look down at my thighs and think, "Oh how gross! Thunder thighs!" I would look in the mirror and wish that I were as skinny as my reflection. I would watch other women and wish I were as lean as they were. I wasted all of my skinny years thinking I was overweight. I probably would have been anorexic, but I like to eat too much!

After my second daughter was born, at first I lost all my baby weight, but then, inexplicably started gaining weight. Because we didn't have much money, I went several years without seeing a doctor, until finally about twelve years ago I made an appointment- but not because of my weight. I went because after a blood test at my gynecologist's office my thyroid levels came back low. So I went to see my family doctor about my thyroid.

After a multitude of tests and discussion, we discovered that my thyroid gland was completely non-functional. The working theory is that when I was pregnant with my younger daughter, I caught some kind of virus that killed my thyroid gland. Everyone around me was strangely happy when I was diagnosed because they assumed that once I went on the thyroid medication, my weight would drop.

Sadly, it didn't work that way. My weight problems may have started because of a thyroid problem, but I exacerbated them by developing bad eating habits. See, the thing is, when I'm depressed, I eat. And I was depressed because I gained weight no matter what I did. I remember when the Rotation Diet came out. My husband and I went on the diet and followed it to the letter. In three weeks he had lost about 20 pounds. In three weeks I GAINED five pounds. So I adopted the philosophy of, if I'm going to gain weight anyway, I might as well enjoy myself. It was an excuse, and I know it. But there's a difference between knowing something rationally and being able to deal with it emotionally.

So even though I was on thyroid medication, I didn't lose weight because I wasn't changing my eating habits. I comforted myself with the thought that even though I was overweight, I was physically fit-- and I was. I walked regularly, lifted weights, did flexibility exercises, and maintained a hectic work schedule at a job that required me to be on my feet and dashing from one spot to another most of the day.

Then a few years ago I was diagnosed with chronic depression and panic attacks. At first the medication I was given made me nauseous, so that was kind of nice because I didn't feel like eating. But after a while my body adapted. One thing about anti-depressants, they cause one to gain weight.

About two years after I was diagnosed with depression, I found out that I have Type II Diabetes. For many people when they receive this diagnosis it acts as a wake up call. They go on the diabetic diet and lose lots of weight. I lost about 40 pounds when I was first diagnosed. I was still very overweight, but there was some progress.

Sadly in the last year and a half, I've gained back all the weight I lost. There are a lot of reasons-- I lost my job and was off work for more than a year- which caused my depression to get worse. My new job is largely a "sit at my desk" job so I am not as physically active as I used to be. And I have fallen back into some bad eating habits.

So that is where I am at right now. I am obese. When push comes to shove, I know that it is up to me to find the time to exercise and to improve my eating habits. I would love to come back in a year and announce to everyone that I have lost 100 pounds. Realistically, I hope I can once again lose the 40 pounds I lost when my diabetes was first diagnosed. And, realistically, I hope I can work on my physical fitness again.

So as far as advice on losing weight, I really don't have any. But I do have advice about accepting yourself. I wasted ten years of my life thinking I was overweight when I wasn't. If you are overweight, don't let it consume your life. You are so much more than your body. The more you obsess about your weight, the harder it will be for you to develop healthy eating habits. If you are, for whatever reason, unable to lose weight at this point in your life, find other ways to take care of yourself. Take a little walk every day, even if it's only for 5 minutes. Develop good grooming habits so you will look nice. Get a nice haircut. Wear comfortable shoes. Buy nice clothes that FIT (not clothes a size or two too small so you'll be able to wear them when you lose weight.) Smile. Smile a lot. Accept that you may never lose the weight, and move on. Life is too short to waste time worrying about your fat cells. The more time you spend worrying about them, the more likely you are to create more of the pesky little buggers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Upcoming Topics

Below you'll fnd out upcoming topics. Make sure to tell your friends to pass by and leave their own comments. Afterall, the Branches of Life applies to everyone.

  • August: adding a young dog to a family with a senior dog
  • September: back to school
  • October: the magic of Halloween: down memory lane
  • November: NaNoWriMo

Looking forward to everyone's participation.

This month we're still continuing with Losing Weight After the Age of Forty

Lea Schizas

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Hate Dieting, but... sister told me about this book: You on a Diet: The Owner's Manuel for Waist Management. She says it's not only a fun read, but she is learning so much about how our bodies interact with food and how to figure out how her body interacts with food. So, if you're tired of yo-yo diets and quick fixes and would like to learn how to work with your body and not against it, I highly recommend this book.

Perilously yours,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Weighing in on diets and fads

Just like everyone else, I've been battling the bulge in my over 20's years. I'd like to share something I've recently learned - there is no one diet for everyone - each person has a unique chemical make up and what works for one won't necessarily, work for another.

As a kid I was thin. So thin in fact, my uncle used to refer to me as a skeleton with skin. In my 20's I gained some muscle and fat, but I was never over weight. I was a figure skater, and a coach, which indeed helped keep the weight off. I'm also certain that my busy schedule, which in turn interrupted my eating pattern to the point where I'd forget to eat, played an important role.

Then I moved away, got married and had a child. I continued to skate, until my pregnant belly was too big and threw me off balance. After my daughter was born, I decided to take one last shot at a skating competition. However, I was over weight and out of shape. I had months of hard work ahead if I wanted to try. And so I did. I trained hard on the ice and watched me diet. I ate mostly veggies and proteins, and limited my starch intake. I lost 40 lbs. and was thinner than I had been in years. That was in 2000.

After that I went back to my evil eating ways. The weight poured on. Two years ago, I tried to get those stubborn pounds off again. But this time I had one big problem. I was diagnosed with Osteo arthritis in my knees and was told I couldn't skate any longer and doing so would add damage to my knees. My exercise would be limited. So instead I focused on eating and joined Weight Watchers. After three months, I hadn't lost but one pound. I was eating healthy in general ( I always do), but the program just didn't work for me.

I started working out at a gym, determined to shed the excess weight. I ate healthy and worked out three days a week. Again, nothing. My trainer said, "Be patient, it takes time." I already knew that, but after three months, I would have thought something should have happened. So, I changed my routine and hit the gym five days a week. The weight slowly peeled off, but not much, only 10 pounds. And now I had an even bigger issue - I was fit, very fit. The problem with that was I had to work even harder to get my pulse rate up to a working level to burn fat!

I'd given up. I couldn't figure out what the problem was. So, I've been sitting with excess baggage clinging to my body. Until recently. That was when it dawned on me. When I dropped all that weight in 2000, it wasn't the skating alone which did it. It was my diet.

I recently started a low Glycemic index diet. Which means, I eat a ton of veggies, proteins and limit my starches. This diet is recommended for people who have Diabetes or heart problems. While I have neither, it appears to be the correct diet for me. I've watched the scale as the numbers are slowly getting smaller. It will take time, but all proper diets do.

There are other diets which eliminate carbohydrates, but they are fads. Your body needs carbohydrates, just not the sugary, refined type. Rather, specific types to give your body proper nutrition. I suggest when you decide to diet you look carefully and select one that is balanced and teaches proper nutrition. What good is a diet if after you stop, you gain the weight back? Find a diet that you can live with - meaning something that you can stick with and continue even after you lose the weight.

Happy dieting!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Martial arts and weight

Obesity is one of the biggest health factors facing America today. For the first time ever, life expectancy is actually falling--because obesity is causing death faster than medical science solves other causes of death. But there's so much temptation. We don't have to hunt for food, painstakingly gather seeds and nuts. Instead, there's all sorts of wonderful food at the neighborhood fast food restaurant or even in our cupboards. I've certainly learned I don't have the will power to leave sweet things in the house. If there's ice cream, for example, I eat it until it's gone.

While I'm not thin, I truly believe that exercise is essential to permanent weight loss. Diets can help you lose weight, but it'll come back on unless you change your lifestyle--and who wants to spend the rest of your life eating cabbage? I used to lift weights as exercise--it really is a perfect workout--except it's boring. After a while, I just couldn't face it any more. So, I looked around for an exercise program where:
1. I felt I could be learning something
2. I'd get support from other people (my home weight bench quickly became a laundry bench)
3. The skills I learn could help me if I needed them--and would assist me in my writing as well
4. Would have a definite set of hours--so I couldn't do the old 'I'll skip today and make up tomorrow' self-sabotage.

For me, studying the martial arts met these criteria. I write action stories, so the fighting aspects of the martial arts come in handy. I hope never to get into actual fights, but the skills I've learned will help protect me if I need them. There's always something to learn so it's never boring. And the exercise is intense--both from a cardio perspective and from a strength perspective.

There are a wide spectrum of martial arts to choose from. Anything from intense grappling (jujitsu/judo), to hard striking arts (karate/tae kwon do) to more calm but still valuable arts like t'ai chi (which is especially great for older people whose bones might not stand up to the intensity of the high-contact martial arts). Any of these give you a chance to make friends, learn a skill, have fun, and burn a whole lot of calories.

Rob Preece

Heartfelt Comments

There is nothing more motivational than to read other people's comments. To read the trials and tribulations they went through and what their impressions on maintaining and losing weight is truly a push in the right direction.

Although I bite my tongue whenever I hear the words I am about to say, "I don't have time to go to the gym.", I really don't have time, not at this point, at least. But I do exercise at home. I have a bike, weights, an elliptical machine (okay, my daughter's but I get exhausted watching her), and stairs to go UP and DOWN.

My biggest problem in how I gained my weight- used to be 140 pounds since high school and now 185- and this may be something many don't understand and perhaps my post may help them see the wrong they are doing to their bodies, is that I didn't eat. I could go with one piece of toast a day, that's it.

How wrong, as my husband pointed it out. What I succeeded in doing was placing my body in starvation mode since it wasn't taking in the right amount of calorie/vitamin and whatever else needed, a day and everything I did put in my body it kept it as fat storage.

What happens when people go on these yo-yo diets is they place their bodies awhack, out of its regular system and you need to bring it back. You need to watch what you eat, when you eat, how often you eat, the portions you eat, and then slowly you'll bring your body back to its right state and the 'starvation mode' should, more or less, be eliminated.

So an update: lost 1 pound since I last posted which isn't much but then again, I haven't been dieting but watching my food intake. I also joined Sparks, which one of the readers commented and offered the link in her posting. Don't have it on hand right now but if you go to my previous posting and check the comments, you'll note the link to Sparks, a FREE membership where you can get the help you need to begin a healthier lifestyle.

Lea Schizas

Monday, July 9, 2007

Losing Weight After 40?

In a weight and age obsessed society weight gain as I aged felt like a double wammy. Being attractive in Western culture is almost a commandment. Even thought I’d been thin all my life, as my metabolism changed I found myself putting on a pound year, then two or three. Thank heaven, by 45 or so my vision changed and anything within two feet blurred or disappeared all together. Just give me a good pair of reading glasses. When I saw photos of me using those glasses, I saw I looked far different from what I felt. My first reaction was shrieking, “Where the hell did all those wrinkles come from?” Putting on makeup became impossible without a 7x mirror and finding something fashionable to wear, impossible. Then one day I realized, “OMG, I’m wearing all elastic waist pants! I’ve turned into my mother.” Aging makes you incredibly unfashionable and weight gain is only part of the picture.

There was one major benefit to reaching 40: I’d developed into a self-accepting person. I have faced myself in the deepest recesses of my mind and I understand and accept that I am not a perfect person. I have not always been a good daughter, a good parent, a good friend, or even a good person. I have weaknesses both moral, mental and physical. I’ve done some things of which I am ashamed. I also learned there are things that make a decent person, and that the only person I needed to worry about judging me (unless I land in a courtroom) is myself over my own actions. At 29 I faced death on a very personal level and had a brief, pre-death chat with God. Then I had another incident at 48. Death is closer to all of us than what you may think. So now I face the future knowing the important thing is how I live my life. What's on the outside shouldn't be discounted, but it isn't all that counts.

Luckily, I am not seriously overweight; if I were I’d take dieting seriously. At this point, I'm trying not to obsess about my weight. Instead, I've pledge to become more observant of what I eat, how much I exercise and walk, and to take better care of my general health as a total lifestyle change. I’m going to wear clothes that are comfortable and put on the outside what matches the person I am on the inside, not some designer’s seasonal dictates. (Don't worry, I still try to be color and style coordinated)

Luckily, that saves a lot of money for theater tickets and other fun side trips. In my social crowd, your thinness isn't all that important.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Waistline Retrieval After 40

by Mary Andrews

Let’s set parameters of where I’m coming from here.

At 53 years old, I am afflicted by type II diabetes, asthma, somewhat raised cholesterol, as well as whatever caused me to have to have a heart stint installed a few years ago, menopause, and a severe case of poverty.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, Even under medication, I have trouble breathing when I over exert/exercise, almost everything I need to eat is likely to conflict with one of my ailments, and EVERYTHING costs too much.


Isometric exercises can be done in a chair. Basically they involve pitting muscle against muscle for short periods of time- repetitively.

Belly dance isolation movements target and control individual muscles, even sitting in a chair you can do a belly roll-- first in one direction and then back. If your knees aren’t too bad, take a class in it. (Note: most all of this dance is done with the knees bent.) If you do have bad knees, it’s still worth your time to take a class or learn the basics through DVDs, because you can belly dance to any music out there, and we all have a radio.

Also, I’ve heard Tai Chi helps lower blood sugar as well as provide isometric and isostatic exercise for people of any age.

Walk the dog. Walk the mall. Walk with a buddy.

When I was younger, I used to do sit ups in bed before I would get up. I’d just throw the blankets down over my feet and do them. I started with as many as I could stand, then I’d do one more and quit. Great way to wake up and get the blood pumping. Each day I would add five more.

I also used to come home from work and turn on the radio. For the duration of 3-5 songs I grabbed up a little weight and exercised to the music, then took my shower and did house-stuff. It was actually very energizing too.


Drink more water. I heard of one lady, who every time she wanted to eat something, she would drink a glass of water. If she still wanted it after that, she would try not to each much of it.

Oprah did a show about the French diet. She says that they eat all kinds of rich foods, but they have smaller, often tiny, portions. Makes sense to me.

Lose the cokes—even diet ones.

Eat more vegetables and salads, lose the carbs as much as possible, cut/cook the fat off your beef, eat more fish/turkey/chicken, give up anything with flavor, etc etc etc.

All of the above will help you out, but the biggest thing you need, is to decide what you do or do not want, and why.

Do you overeat to feel better, or is it in defiance of the universe?

I haven’t had cable TV in a couple of decades, so I’ve ended up watching way too many God awful exercise programs and advertisements. At first they really just pissed me off. Scantily clad, rib-showing sweet young things who don’t even have the decency to break a sweat are telling me how to lose weight and spend money I don’t have. Yeah, right.

Fact is, they inspired me to jump up and snack on something, even if I didn’t want it. So take that! (Not my brightest move, but what’s a poor, old, fat girl gonna do?) But before I realized it, each time they came on I actually started to get hungry (stupid Pavlov). So when I finally realized it, I started drinking a glass of water whenever I see the evil stick girls taunting me verily from the tube.

Defiance eating is a misguided form of reclaiming control over your life. As body parts start to fall off with age, and even the ugly guys/gals at the club won’t dance with you, and you find yourself training the people you work for, and everybody everywhere seems to have more say in your life than you do, that last bastion of power that only you control is THE RIGHT TO BE WRONG. Much akin to your misery, nobody but you can change it.

And as we age, we must work within whatever parameters we are given.
Good luck

30 pounds or 30,000 words--it's all good!

I didn't gain my weight at 40--it hit me at 35. We moved to Virginia and in six months, I gained 30 pounds, not changing my eating habits or my exercise level. My doctor told me I was getting old. I'm blaming Virginia.

At any rate, neither diagnosis is helping me lose the weight, so recently, I've tried to implement a routine of daily walking. However, as a very busy writer and homeschooling mom, I don't have time or opportunity to wander my neighborhoods aimlessly. Besides, I find that deadly dull. Instead, I set up the ironing board in our bedroom, put the laptop on it, and march as I type. I march while blogging (yes, like now), doing e-mails or while on chats. Usually, I pick times when typos are not as serious because, let's face it, typing on a computer perched on an ironing board while the knees are lifting and at least one arm is pumping isn't the time for accuracy.

People thought I was nuts, but it's been working...slowly. However, I've found my inspiration:

I want his set-up! Once we move to Minot, I'll be looking for a machine I can attach my laptop to; or I may see what the gym on base has to offer.

Now all I need is a T-shirt that says 30 pounds or 30,000 words--it's all good!

PS--Check out my virtual book tour this August. Forty stops in 31 days and none of it is fattening! for details

Karina Fabian

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Losing Weight

Diets! I hate the word. Afterall look at the first three letters. I don't diet. I'm in the process of losing the last 35 pounds. I have gotten rid of 25 pounds, but I did it by changing my attitude toward food. If I take the route of, of no, that's a bad food. I can't have it---well you know how that goes..nothing in the world is going to appease me until I have that food. So I don't forbid myself anything. If I want it I eat it....but just a bit of it. I tried subsitutions...didn't work...ended up eating it anyway, plus what I'd tried to sub for it.

What I find that works for me is upping my activity level. I don't weigh myself often, that scale drives me crazy. Oh, and I'm beyond the 50 mark by 5 years.

You know what drives me crazy, where the extra weight heads to now, it used to be my hips and butt, notw every extra ounce heads right to my stomach and waist. I hate that extra roll right above the old jean's waist that wants to be apart of me for the rest of my life.

I tried that much talked about program where they send you the food, Yes, I lost weight on it for about two weeks because I couldn't stand to eat the food. Everything tasted like green bell peppers. I don't care for bell peppers, but if you like them, then you would like the their food also.

Like Lea I'll let you all know how things are going at the end of the month, my goal is to be another 10 pounds lighter.

Oh, and don't forget about that muscle your gaining. It weighs more than fat. So take your measurements and rely on that more than that darn scale!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July's topic: Losing Weight After the Age of 40

In January I'll be hitting fifty and I vowed to get to the 140 pounds I used to be, the level I feel comfortable at. Right now I'm 40 pounds over that limit and I feel the weight. Although I'm tall and carry the weight spread out equally, the notion that 'it's there' bothers me.

I remember when I was in my early twenties, a friend of the family told me that once you hit thirty you feel a change in your body. As soon as you hit forty you'll see your metabolism slow down; foods that you ate at a younger age will now begin storing in your fat compartment. Boy was she right.

Personally, I don't like diets. Just the thought that I'll go on a diet causes me to be hungry. I have, however, learned over the years to be careful what I eat and not to eat past 8 o'clock.

I'll still have my spagetti with sauce but might have only a half slice of bread. For snacks, I'll eat carrots, celery, broccoli, or cauliflower dipped in tzatziki. Don't misunderstand, I still have my vinegar chips or chocolate ice cream, but sparingly, maybe once a week instead of the daily habit I found myself in.

I also have found that eating breakfast has helped me lose weight because I don't get these hunger pangs like before and chewed on about everything in my cupboards or fridge.

I used to go to the gym and did love it but I tried something at home which I found has helped me. I use things around the house, for example, various sizes of cans used as weights, using the back of my chair for side leg raises, using the wall to do stand up push-ups, popping in exercise videos and following that gorgeous bodied gal and wishing it was me in that video.

Although the gym is an important connection to a healthier you, if you don't have the time then taking 15 minute spread into 4 parts throughout the day, will give you some benefit instead of nothing.

As I wrote, I am now 180 pounds and will report at the end of the month to tell you how much I've lost using the methods I mention above.

I'd love to hear back on what everyone is doing to lose weight and what the outcome has been.

Lea Schizas

Friday, June 22, 2007

My favorite fantasy

Once in a while, I read a book that completely blows me away. Sometimes it's science fiction--Cyteen and Downbelow Station by CS Cheryth did. Sometimes it's romance--I still remember the first Jennifer Cruise Harlequin Temptation I read and thinking--this is what category romance can do. Sometimes it's mystery--Elmore Leonard or T. Jefferson Parker can write a mean line. But most often, it's fantasy.

I think the reason is that fantasy opens all possibilities. Authors can write a fantasy so funny it'll knock your socks off--if you haven't read the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, you've got a treat coming. Sometimes fantasy lets us look at our own world through different lenses, seeing what we should have known--Harry Turtledove does this in his fantasy alternate history tales. Sometimes it opens new doors--when I read Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny for the first time, I hurried to the library to research Indian religion. Sometimes it makes you cry--as George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones did. Sometimes it's just plain fun.

I've read lately that paranormal romance is on the way out. I don't know--my paranormal romances (One Handsome Devil and In the Werewolf's Den) seem to sell better than most of my other books, but that seems to be what I'm hearing from New York. I don't know if that's true although certainly not everything the New York publishers have put out lately has been as good as it might be, and I have to say that I could go a long time without another hunky immortal vampire. I hope, though, that fantasy will always be a major part of what's published, and that publishers will continue to seek new, creative, and wonderfully powerful fantasies like the ones that first inspired me to want to write.

Rob Preece

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

FANTASY (a poem) by Mary Andrews

A man walked up and asked me one night,
“What do you like, my dear?”
And I gazed in his eyes and far past his lies,
Drew a deep breath and replied:

I like white horses with horns,
Winged creatures—air born,
Dragons, castles, and magical things.

I like soft, starry nights,
And cold crisp sounds of flight
Like the leathery flapping of wings.

He looked at me strangely
And took a deep drink,
And asked what I liked to do.

And I gazed in his eyes,
Farther still past his lies,
Drew another deep breath and replied:

I like mythical things
That make foolish hearts sing,
Things like honesty, valor, and truth.

Someone holding me tight,
KNOWING things are alright,
And relationships not hundred-proof.

And he blinked once or twice,
Blew a smoke ring or two,
Left his name and his number behind.

As I watched him depart,
A cold wind crossed my heart,
And that is the reason I write.

(Poetry is not my forte, but I have a book full of these things
from back-in-the-day...
This one came to mind since Dindy did such a good job
of covering the other points I was going to make.)
til next time, read and write on.--mary andrews

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Do I like Fantasy?

At one time I would have answered that question with a resounding "No." I'm a pretty practical type of person, and when I am reading and writing, I like to stay within the realms of possibility. Besides, for many years almost all fantasy novels written were clones of Lord of the Rings. Once I read that, there wasn't any need to read anything else.

However, tastes change, and not only that but literature changes. In the 80's there was a change in fantasy literature. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels gave us fantasy that explored issues such as gender differences, culture clash, religion, wife abuse and pedophilia. She, along with other writers, ushered n a new era in fantasy novels-- a post LOTR era. Fantasy novels no longer always involved a quest or a war between good and evil or a dark lord. Sure, there were generally some elements of good and evil in most fantasy novels, but it was a different sort of focus than we found in Lord of the Rings.

Now I read and enjoy quite a bit of fantasy, and even wrote a fantasy novel, The Dreamer's Way, which is a blend of SF and Fantasy. I love the opportunity to be able to explore problems that we have in a different setting. Sometimes by just stepping sideways a bit and looking at a problem in a different way we can find a way to resolve it.

I've never been a linear thinker, so Fantasy allows me to indulge the non-conformist part of me. And sometimes it's just plain fun-- wouldn't we all like to have magical powers? Don't most of us secretly long for the days when we believed in Santa Claus?

In the world of fantasy, we slip the bounds of reality and can become anything we want. In a middle-aged life that often seems to be little but get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, a little bit of fantasy reminds us that there is more to life than the mundane of every day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ten reasons Why I Didn’t Blog About Working At Home Today:

In no particular order. From the Home Office of Karina Fabian:

Kids kept interrupting me for help on their schoolwork. (If I have to spell “privacy” one more time…)

Steven was yelling at Liam because Liam hit him, but that was because Amber was kicking him because he (Liam) was in her spot and she couldn’t see the TV, and besides, Steven is grounded from TV and Alex even told him so, but he wouldn’t move so Liam hit him but…

The toilet backed up, and I’m the janitorial staff.

My friend IM’d about a problem she was having with her latest story, so of course, we worked on that and then we chatted about moving and kids… They should call it Yahoo! Watercooler.

I couldn’t concentrate, so I took a long shower to think about it. Had a great idea for a story and wrote that instead. Took another shower to think about the blog.

I went to make a pot of coffee and realized the dishes hadn’t been put away. Putting away the dishes reminded me I still had clothes in the dryer, and as long as I was folding them I may as well put another load in…Did those ever get put in the dryer? I’d better check.

Husband came home “frisky.”

The dog wanted to play. Who can resist a dog with a squeak toy in her mouth?

It was 90 out and the pool looked sooooo good!

Oh, wait—I just did it! Never mind.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


by Mary Andrews

It’s all about time…Organization….and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s easy to get all worked up over everything that needs to be done, in fact, it can become so overwhelming sometimes, that nothing gets done at all.

Ready... set... Categorize your needs…

........................Food: shopping, preparation…

........................House work: daily & weekly…

........................Outdoor chores: maintenance, lawn, garden…

........................'Children/animal care: feed, clothe, play, exercise…

.........................Relationship: quality time

.........................Scheduled Outside activities: church, clubs,

.........................Work: email, blogs, website, writing, marketing

Prioritize what is important and what isn’t.

When I first started my website, I had an arm long list of subjects to present. After about a week of killing myself trying to figure out how to do what I wanted, I found myself coming to loathe the thought of touching the computer.

This is not a good thing for a writer, so one day I got up and deleted three of the pages that I had not yet started working on. Lo and behold, my website looked so much better! I could actually announce that my website existed.

And you know what? I can still add those pages any time I want.

Schedule your time.

My mother raised seven kids with all that entailed, belonged to a bowling league, became a girl scout leader and a boy scout leader (at the same time), and kept an immaculate house. I marvel at that accomplishment even more than the fact she survived us.

I asked her once how she handled everything. She told me she kept to a schedule and a semblance of order prevailed.

Cut your chore time down by dividing them up per day. (Laundry on Monday, shopping on Tuesdays, yard work on Wednesdays….for example.) OR, do them all on one hell-or-high-water day, if you can.

Use ergonomicsdesign factors, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by minimizing operator fatigue and discomfort. (

For instance, cook two suppers at a time and tomorrow’s will need only reheating. OR set a crock pot up for tomorrow’s supper while you cook for today. Tomorrow, you plug it in.

Prepare school lunches the night before. Supper left-over’s making for a hearty lunch for anyone with a microwave at work.

Check your email during your kids’ favorite shows….

Back in my child rearing days, I would put the kids to bed and could write after 10:00pm. To optimize my available time, I would pour a Pepsi and play the same music over and over each time I sat down to write. Good ‘ol Pavlov was right. To this day, when I play that music I get creative…and crave a soft drink (same principle works for going to sleep, doing housework, exercising etc).

If you are working at home, set some rules.
As a writer, let others know that when your hat is turned to the front, you are at work. Tell friends your work hours. Establish a work area and make it inviolate (nobody uses your equipment).


It is amazing how hard we can be on ourselves—how easy it is to negate our own accomplishments. When I used to run reset crews in stores, I always made it a point to gather my people together and tell them to look at the results of their day's work before quitting time.

If you are working at home, remember to be kind to yourself. Who knows, maybe as a happy employee you'll become even more productive.

...........** for more 'me sightings' check out **

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Routine Routine Routine

I work both at home and away from home. Outside of my job as a publisher and writer, I have another job out in the real world where I am a Human Resources Manager. I put in my 8 hours at the office, then drive home and put in another 3-4 hours at my "other life." And on weekends I totally spend my time at my "other life."

I've had to learn to minimize distractions. I make a list of everything I hope to accomplish each evening, and I stay focused on it. I don't answer the phone or pay attention to most of my email. It's not easy-- some nights I don't get to bed until 2 or 3 o'clock AM and then I'm up again at 6:00 AM to go to my day job. But my evening job (Swimming Kangaroo) is my passion and I am committed to it!

I don't have a problem staying away from the TV because I don't watch much to begin with, but I have to make sure I don't get distracted by surfing on the web, getting onto one of my listservs or reading a good book.

Throughout my working life I've had periods where I have worked at home. When my girls were little, I took jobs that allowed me to work from home during the summers and school breaks so I could be with them. They slept in so I could get stuff done in the morning. Once they got up I'd take a break and spend some time with them. During the afternoon they would usually get into the swimming pool so I would go back to my computer and keep an eye on them through the window. Evenings, once again, I took a break to spend time with my husband and the kids and then finally, once the girls went to bed, I went back to work. Over the course of the day I would put in more than 8 hours at work.

I have found that I am actually more productive at home than I am at my office because I don't have so many distractions. While I'm at my day job, people stop by my office frequently to chat. I don't have that at home-- once I make up my mind that I'm not going to pay attention to the phone or to email, I don't have to worry about anybody dropping in. Our neighbors, fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) pretty much keep to themselves, so I don't have to worry about them coming by. When the girls were little we usually had other parents, who worked outside the home, drop their kids off at our house to spend the day. I never minded because that gave the girls some entertainment and allowed me to get some more work done.

I love working at home for another reason-- I am a night person. My natural inclination, if left to myself, is to stay up all night working and to sleep during the day. When I am working from home, I have the freedom to do that. Unfortunately I haven't managed to convince my boss at my day job that my hours should be switched to midnight to 8!

Before I sign off, I have to mention that CJ, the lead character in the mystery novel I wrote with my husband, The Dead Detective (under the pseudonym of Lorene Robbins) has a unique distraction while working at home-- the ghost of a murdered pawnbroker won't leave her alone. CJ discovered the pawnbroker's body, and she is the only person who can hear him. It makes things just a little difficult when she is trying to attend to her freelance computer consulting business. The ghost, Budge, is a pest, to put it bluntly, and insists that CJ spend time solving the mystery of his murder instead of working at her freelance computer consulting business.

I am fortunate not to have that problem-- no ghosts disturb my work at home moments-- just the occasional husband popping in or the occasional daughter calling me to "Mom" duty. For me, working at home is a privilege, and I hope to get to a point where I can do it full time!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Working at Home - Time Management Tips

Hello everyone and apologies for my absence. I was away in Greece since April. My father passed away and I made it just in time to see him, talk with him, and tell him how much I loved him. Dad was my best friend, my motivator, and my writing inspiration and his teachings will continue to inspire me for many years to come.

This month's topic is Working at Home - Time Management Tips.

As a full time writer/editor, finding time to read, review books, write my own stories, and edit for several publishing houses and my own freelance editing business is a chore and a half.

Try living in a house where family members 'think' you are playing on the computer and not actually 'working. Imagine a home where five kids, four of them being adults, come and go, "Mom, what's for dinner?", "Mom, did you wash my...", "Mom, tell her to stop taking my clothes!". Yes, imagine trying to edit 'peacefully' in these circumstances.

But guess what? I do? Perhaps it's the mother in me and quite capable of tuning in and out whenever I want but I do get work done, most of the time on the proposed deadlines.

Most of the time I try to get up early to catch up with some editing while everyone is still asleep. That time fluctuates anytime between 4am - 5:30am.

Then the making of beds, preparing breakfast and figuring out the supper meal begins. When everyone is out of the house again, usually before lunch, I hop on my laptop and work nonstop until 4pm.

Most of the time, I hop on and off the computer between 4pm and 8pm, working around the house in-between. Then my fulltime ritual begins again around 10pm when everyone is too booped out to call out my name, and I'll continue until my eyes begin to droop, maybe midnight or 1am.

Is this a sane schedule to follow? No.

Then what motivates me to follow it? Simple...a love for what I'm doing.

When you have a passion for something as much as I have for writing, then you will find the time during the day to devote even an hour to it.

Oh, there are many excuses I've heard from not only writers, but from other at-home professionals:

-but the phone keeps me from working-- then don't answer it when you are in your scheduled 'work' time. If you were working from out of your home, would you allow your family and friends to interrupt you at work? I have call display so I see who is calling and make a mental note to call them later on, when I'm 'off' work. Make sure to tell your friends you won't answer the phone between so and so a time.

-there's so much to do around the house--then delegate. If you were working somewhere else, you'd still have to do this after you came home, right? Ask everyone to pitch in and help you around the house.

and many more excuses. As I wrote above and I stick by that: when you have a passion for what you are doing you will always find the time to accomodate it somewhere in your daily routine. Think of your at-home business as your baby. You need to nurture it from young in order for it to build into something you'll be proud of. You'd never neglect a child, then why neglect your business? You always find the extra time for play time with your child, then why can't you find one hour for your business?

As the saying goes: where there's a will there's a way.

Make sure to bookmark us and come back often and read what some of the other participating members have to offer in this month's topic: WORKING AT HOME- TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS.

Here are some of our upcoming topics to look forward to:

June: Fantasy: What I love about Fantasy

July: Losing weight after 40

Lea Schizas

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Changing of the Guard

As our parents get older, the nature of the relationship between them and us changes. At forty-seven years old, I am still the baby of the family, still the youngest of my four sisters, still the last child to which my mother gave birth. For most of my forty-seven years I have looked to my mother for, well, mothering. When I needed advice or wanted to complain about something, I called her. Even as my own children moved into adulthood, I still depended heavily on my mom to offer guidance as I moved through life.

Then, about seven years ago, I received a phone call from my dad. Like most daughters, I have always idolized my father. He has always known what to do and how to handle things. He's never needed much of anything-- he's just been the strong, silent, capable father figure throughout my life.

One Saturday I had a rare day with nothing going on, and I settled myself on the sofa with a good book and a bowl of popcorn. Then the phone rang. When I answered it, I didn't recognize the voice on the other end as my dad's. He kind of strangled out my name, "Dindy!"

"Yeah," I said, chewing on my popcorn.

"Marty... something's wrong."

I forgot about the popcorn. I could hear someone moaning in the background and, worse, I could hear my dad sobbing. He was crying out my mother's name and asking her if she were all right. She was unable to respond.

I started asking questions and learned that he had come inside and found her standing by the fridge with one arm up in the air, completely unresponsive. As I spoke to him, I flew into the bedroom and changed clothes, preparing to drive hellbent for leather the thirty miles to their house. "Hang up and call 911!" I urged him. "I think she's had a stroke."

As I listened to my father on the phone, along with the incomprehensible moans from my mother, I chafed at the fact that no matter how fast I drove, it would take me at least thirty minutes to get there. My dad, for the first time in my life, seemed helpless, completely incapable of doing anything, I heard him crying out to my mother, could hear his voice choked with tears and fear.

Finally a woman who lives next door to my mother dropped over and, quickly assessing the situation, called 911. By that time I was halfway there, and my dad told me to meet them at the hospital. I drove straight to the hospital emergency room and caught up with my dad at the admitting office. As soon as he saw me, he wrapped me in his arms and cried into my shoulder. The admissions clerk said they had been waiting for me because Dad was too upset to complete the paperwork. Holding my dad’s hand, I sat down beside him and listened carefully to the clerk as she explained each step of the admissions process. In turn, I repeated everything she said to my dad who looked to me for answers, searching my face to see assurance that my mom would be all right. Assurance I couldn’t give him.

Finally we finished with the paperwork and were allowed back to see my mother. Hospital staff moved around the room in smooth routine. For them, this was just another patient, another day- and while they NEVER treated my mother as a number in a bed, I knew that at the very least, they had their treatment pattern honed to a smooth art and were able to shift smoothly through the clockwork gears of occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, nurse, cardiologist, physician, dietician and a myriad of other specialists and care providers. For the first 48 hours, though, my mother was unresponsive. The few times she was conscious, she was not lucid. Her speech pattern dropped down to those of a three-year-old. “But I don’t want to stay in the hospital!” she would say in a little girl voice. Every time a doctor or care provider came into the room, they would explain what they were doing. Again, I would listen and then my dad would look to me to explain what had just been said. Once I explained it, he would nod and then make a response. I was saying almost the exact same thing the provider said, but somehow Dad couldn’t understand them as well as he could understand me.

My mother slowly gained strength, and her brain slowly started to return. She received excellent care and has made a good recovery. She still has problems sometimes finding the words she wants to say, and she gets stuck in conversational loops and can’t get out of them—she’ll start talking about something and no matter what we say, she will return the conversation back to her topic and repeat it endlessly. She’s also lost her social barriers—when we go places with her she has a tendency to wander off and get involved in discussions with complete strangers who stand looking slightly bemused at this little old lady who has just inserted herself into their conversation.

And my relationship with my parents has changed as well. We are slowly shifting our roles— I realize I can no longer expect them to care for me in the manner in which they used to. My sister and I talk to each other frequently about their condition—“How is Mom this week? Is she lucid? What about Dad? Does he seem okay?” We make arrangements to check on them and try to do it so they won’t know what we are doing. About a year after the stroke, my dad went to Indiana to spend a few days with another sister, leaving my mother behind. He asked Carleen (my sister who lives near me) and I to keep an eye on my mother. We enlisted the help of my daughter Fritha, who was going to school and living near my parents, and between the three of us we managed to work it out so my mom had a visitor every day my dad was gone. Fritha dropped by one day to do her laundry and another day to take my mother to lunch. Carleen dropped by to water the plants and another time to take Mom to dinner. I drove over to go out to lunch. We even managed to get my younger daughter, Jaala, to call my mom one day. Was Mom suspicious about the sudden rush of attention from her daughters and grandchildren? I don’t know, but it gave my dad, and us, some peace of mind.

As a parent, I know that I do not want to be a burden to my children. Further, I know that I do not want them to see me as I saw my mother and father after Mom’s stroke. I am MOM. I take care of them. They don’t take care of me. That is the way it should be. Yet, as a daughter, I am glad that I am able to help my parents in whatever way I can. It is a small price to pay for the life they have given me. And I know that I may not be able to dump all my problems on them any more, but I can still reach out to them for the same unconditional love and acceptance they have always given me. That is one parenting role that will NEVER change.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Caring for a Parent

My father-in-law has lived with us since June last year, just before his 88th birthday. About the same time my 82-year-old mother moved in with my younger sister. This was lucky for my sister and me because we were able to call each other, compare problems and commiserate with each other. Commiserate? Yes, commiserate. Having your parent move in with you is not an easy transition for anyone involved.

Dealing with a parent-child relationship that is changing in dramatic ways is difficult. The parent may have short-term memory problems. Listening to your mother repeat the same joke, tell the same antidote, worry about the same problem once every five minutes of your visit with her is difficult. Having her tell you she is moving back to her house this weekend and having to tell her that her house was sold months ago is terrible. The little look of shock on her face that her house and her possessions are gone, hurts. She was there, she chose what happened, what she kept, what she gave away. She has just forgotten.

Further problems develop when you realize you are not always dealing with an adult mentality, but one who occasionally reverts to a sneaky six-year old. They don’t want to shower or exercise. They only want to eat what they want. Even when you tell them they are diabetic and they aren’t supposed to have the candy they have crammed in their mouth. Or try telling someone with glaucoma, hearing aids that don’t seem to help much and mental spells of confusion why he can’t drive anymore. His answer to your objections, “Well, I’m sure the doctor will tell you I can at the next visit.”

Your parent might be on multiple medications for which you are responsible to see are taken in the right dosage at the proper timing -- and being sure they can’t find the drugs it they remember they have to take their medications. They might not be aware any new television series have been made since The Heat of the Night. They might use the remote to change the TV station every thirty seconds or so. You aggrevate them, even when trying not to. What you do know is that you want them to be with the people who love them and whom they know for as long as they can.

A parent’s care can be a full-time job, and different from taking care of a child who will grow and learn, the path here is only more disability, and eventually, death. It will test your strength and your patience. You will cry. We were lucky our parents remained independent as long as they did. As health problems and memory failure take over their lives, we fall back on the love they gave to us for so many years and the respect they are still due as an adult to see us through.

Their condition is a reminder to enjoy the time we have, to visit family and friends, especially the elders, for as long as we can; to take care of ourselves, exercise and follow the guidelines for good health, and lastly, to not feel guilty about having someone come in stay with your parent because you just have to get away.