Weird and Weary… Day 205

All over town here there are signs, bumper stickers, and tee-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”

It’s infectious.

I am having a seriously weird time myself these last few days. Several new friends bought and read the anthology (and liked it). Then they went looking for my trilogy, which I mentioned in the book, with honest intent to get it (or info about it) on the web page…but it isn’t there yet. So I emailed web-guru Christine with a few paragraphs to add to my web page when she has the time. And now I feel like I should be doing something… like putting the stories out on Amazon.

So I went to the advice-for-indie-authors blogs and downloaded a nice little book called 10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing.

The first recommendation is to build your social media platform.  Despite the Not-Bob challenge, I still don’t really ‘get’ the whole social media thing.

The second is to have your book professionally edited. (hmmm)​​ I have trouble with the notion of needing that–Ph.D. ego, I guess.

The third recommendation is to decide what parts you want to do yourself and what you want to hire… or as the book says, DIY or ProTeam. The four essential functions are–

–editing (Ego issues)

–graphic design for the cover (But I look at ours and at Christine’s and I like them both a lot and think they look very professional, so I have trouble with the idea of hiring it out.  Then I spend hours looking at stock photos and find nothing I like. Maybe hiring it out is not such a bad idea.)

–book layout artist (If this covers formatting, I am in for ProTeam on this one!)

–marketing expert (I don’t want to even think about this, and if I were to hire help in this area, I suspect the first thing that person would do is force me to think about it.)

It goes on about a bunch of other things and ends with mistakes to avoid… not getting pro editing is one of them. Also, publishing without a marketing plan. And not getting an ISBN. It all makes my head spin. The anthology project had most of these covered, but little thanks to me. Several others in the group are great editors and a few are good at marketing. I feel lost.

For some reason the confusion sends me to critique circle, my old stomping ground. I haven’t been there nice March. I find a nice note from Hijo, who critiqued all of Tossing the Caber–passionately–telling me he is dropping from that queue only because I haven’t been there in so long, and if I need him to look at anything, he’ll be there for me…the note is dated October 23. It is so recent, it makes me miss him even more. I look to see what he’s been posting… nothing current… and read a bit of his old posts. A different novel than I recall, but the man is still one of the best writers I know. I should contact him, but I don’t. Feeling awkward, I guess. Or just weird.

I wonder if I should change the titles of my books. Are they catchy enough? Who knows??

I wonder if I need to do another rewrite of Caber.

I wonder why I didn’t think of all this before now. Yes, the big move, and learning to be a Dean, and having the knee replaced, and my husband’s hip replacement are all viable excuses… But they are still excuses. Drat it, I am never as together as I want to be!

At least I know one thing, learned long ago during a rough spot in my life: The only way I can get to where I want to be, is to begin from where I am right now.

There really is no other choice.

Until next time,

Susan Craig

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Finally, the book is out!… Day 201

My writing group from Nebraska just published a fantastic Christmas Anthology. The initial proceeds are be donated to a charity promoting literacy. Please check it out! Thanks.

This is the link to Love and Merry Christmas Enjoy!

P.S. Let me know how you like my story!

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The Past Catches Up With Me… Day 200

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Actually, it happened quite a while ago, but I didn’t find out about it until today.

I messed up—made a major mistake at work and naturally—inevitably—it had to do with money. Specifically it was an expense I knew was being incurred and verbally approved, without getting the details of how much and to whom. Dumb.

I think the Division Chair spending the money did tell me to whom the money would go, though I would not have recognized the name, and it is possible an amount was mentioned, though I have no recollection of that. But the entire matter should have been sent upwards for approval and was not. Naively, I supposed that a budget line allocation meant that the funds were under the control of the budget officer, as long as the amount disbursed remained below the limit of the officer’s signing authority. Wrong.

So today—too late to do anything about it—the whole affair hit the fan. Not fun.

My boss was understanding, which was much appreciated, but I’ve put him in a bad position with his boss. That situation has yet to fully develop, and I deeply regret my part in it. So now I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were.

I suppose it is a good thing that I haven’t time to worry about this overmuch. In an attempt to get a grip on what needs to be done, and to facilitate the catch-up from my three-week absence after the knee replacement, I am working my way across the materials on my desk, putting together an exhaustive To-Do-List. I am nearing completion and beginning my third sheet on a narrow-ruled legal pad—one line per task.

I made the mistake of beginning to count how many things I had to do, but quit at seventy-four. Ridiculous number. It was probably a bad idea to quantify this, but it was not a bad idea to try to capture all that needs doing in a single list. I must see how I can group things so I feel more organized and can set some rational priorities.

I am afraid that important tasks may be getting lost amid the avalanche of smaller, more urgent matters.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that during the time taken so far to compile the list, I have also dealt with numerous small immediate issues and several larger problems of the urgent-and-important variety. My email has continued to fill with new demands, and the many items that go directly to my administrative assistant for my approval have continued to arrive.

I press on only because the need for structure has become paramount.

Today (Tomorrow arrived as I wrote), I will finish the list and find some way to group and prioritize my work. I say this in a strong, clear voice, hoping wildly that I am speaking the truth.

As the racing of my mind slows and fear begins to creep in, a powerful voice fills my mind…”There may come a day when we are swept to sea, when we drown beneath the rolling waves of the list and throw our hands up in despair. But it is not this day. An hour of pressing demands and student petitions when prudence crumbles and is swept away.  But it is not this day. This day we fight!”

Thank you, Aaragorn. I will.

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On the Road to Recovery… Days 124-169

When I pulled up stakes and moved from small town Nebraska to Austin, Texas to begin a new job, I didn’t expect to be sidelined only two and a half months later by knee-replacement surgery, but that’s what happened. Now, three weeks after surgery, I am facing the prospect of trying to ease back into a job I was only beginning to get a grip on.

It could be worse. My colleagues and the faculty I supervise are wonderful people, and have done a fantastic job of covering for me during my absence. And no one is likely to expect more of me right off the bat than I can handle… except for myself. I expected to leap back in at 100%.

Yeah, I know that was unrealistic, maybe even dumb, but it is truly what I anticipated. It isn’t what I got.

My knee is doing well. The therapist who’s been coming to the house says I have surpassed his criteria. The doctor was enthusiastic when I saw him last Thursday; said it was a good visit; and cleared me for everything “in moderation” except getting in the spa at my house. But I know what my body is really doing. It is refusing to let people down. And I know that, good as I may appear for a while, I am not that good all the time.

My energy and stamina are still down. If I overdo one day… like by doing all the exercises the therapist recommends… I pay for it by spending most of the next day lying uncomfortably in bed. I worry about going back to work.

My muscles are sore, and not getting stronger as fast as I’d like. (I’d like them to respond like they did when I was in my twenties.) The painkillers post-surgery turned me into an airhead, and it took days after stopping them to bring my brain back online. Now it is working well almost all the time, which is a comfort. At least the airhead phase is behind me. But even so, my thoughts are distracted.  And, as of Friday night, I have a lovely rash on both legs and my back, which I hope is a simple case of contact dermatitis—though from what I have no idea. And—great—I just looked in the mirror and found nine mosquito-bite size patches of rash on my forehead. It may be difficult to present even the appearance of health.

But mostly, I worry about taking good care of my leg. I want to have a full and strong recovery and, frankly, I am afraid I will throw myself back into work to the detriment of my rehabilitation.

If you think this is an empty fear, that my awareness of the danger will be sufficient to allow me to avoid it, I beg to differ.  My track record for doing what I know I should do is not the best. For example, I knew what initial rehab for the knee would involve. I planned to do my exercises faithfully, two or three times a day, as instructed. Yet I found it impossible to force myself to get through more than one set of repetitions a day. It’s true I don’t seem to have been harmed by that, but I am concerned that come Monday, despite knowing I must have time and rest to heal, I will get caught up in the work and overdo, thus jeopardizing the quality of my recovery.

Right now the plan for tomorrow is still in flux.  I see the home nurse at nine for a finger stick to check blood thinner levels, the home therapist at 9:30 for exercises, and then I hope to see our family doctor to take care of the rash. After that I want to get to work and clear some of the inevitable backlog off my desk.  Not knowing about the rash makes this plan a little uncertain, but I think the odds are in my favor.

When I began this blog I had only two transitions in mind—the change in location and the change in job. Now I must add another—the transition from surgery back to normal. Or maybe it is better to think of it as a transition from an arthritic limp to a healthy walk.

Yes, I think that is a better thought to keep in mind. I am transitioning to healthy mobility.

What can I share that I have learned from this experience so far? Only this: my husband–whose hip replacement has healed beautifully and who is moving around really well now–is an awesome, loving man who has been taking wonderful care of me. I am not normally the helpless type, but in my very real helplessness through much of these last few weeks, he has really stepped up. Plus, he has been, as always, my encourager and cheerleader—even when I have made poor or foolish choices, he has chosen to celebrate my “gutsy-ness” rather than point out my errors. I feel, and am, very loved and very fortunate to have him.

I wish as wonderful a partner for each of you.

Until next time…

–Susan Craig

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One step at a time… Days 111-123

One hundred twenty-three days ago, I began the transition between teaching undergraduate biology at a small university town in Nebraska and being the dean of the college of science at a small university in Austin, Texas. This blog is my story, and my thoughts, 123 days in…

Things here alternate between rushing out of control and boredom. At work, with the start of classes, it’s like being in a whirlwind. I find myself signing things right and left, and trying to keep a grip on what they are. The students are eager, fresh and enthusiastic. And the people I work with are outstanding. My administrative assistant, Jenny, has been here for 6 months more than I have, so she knows the ropes (somewhat). Without her I’d be completely lost, though between the two of us, we probably know just enough to be dangerous. Fortunately, I have the “new dean” card to play when I mess up… and Don Chrisitan, the dean of the College of Business, assures me it won’t expire for quite a while.

At home, things move slowly. I have things to do, taking care of my husband after his hip replacement, but mostly, especially this last week, I’ve been sitting around.

You see, my knee is giving me a great deal of trouble.

With Craig’s hip getting so bad just before we moved from Nebraska, I did most of the getting ready to move by myself–and although the movers packed us up, there was still a lot to do–sorting through things and getting the house ready to rent.  Then came the drive out here accompanied only by Justin and Heather, our ten- and nine-year-old grandchildren. Craig had gone on before. It took two very interesting days, including a night at the motel from hell, to get here. But once we arrived, the grandkids were a big help with the unpacking. In fact, their mother came out later with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter to help, and our sons and their families drove up from Houston (One weekend we had everyone here except Susan’s husband, Bob!) But it was still a lot to do. When the excitement died down, my knee was pretty sore.

I expected it to get better, but the campus, while beautiful, is large, and I have to walk the length of two large buildings, plus the distance between them, to get to my office each day. The knee got worse instead of better.

Craig’s surgery for his hip came up on Aug 1, and I took that day off, but was at work the next two days. He came home on the 4th, and I stayed home for a week taking care of him.  It was a lot of work that week, because he couldn’t move much at all, and they had him drugged up pretty well. When I went back to work the next week, I was limping pretty badly. As always, movement was very painful at first and would ease off after about five minutes to where it wasn’t too bad.

When I came home at night, there was no chance to rest the leg because Craig still wasn’t moving too much. But he got better every day, and by 18 days after surgery, he was doing quite well.

I wasn’t. The knee was staying sore longer and easing up less. I wasn’t getting much sleep, because Craig woke up frequently during the night and, unlike him, I didn’t get to nap during the day. He was scheduled to go back for his three-week appointment last Tuesday. We both looked forward to the staples coming out of the incision–they were part of the discomfort that had him sleeping so poorly. But at 4am, Monday morning, Craig woke to find me in the living room, on the computer. When he asked what I was doing, I told him I needed to find a place to rent a wheelchair. I am embarrassed to admit I pretty much fell apart emotionally, and simply couldn’t face walking to my office one more time. The knee had worsened to the point where the pain was constant–not easing up appreciably at all. I’d pretty much been keeping it to myself, because he was in no shape to do anything about it. Anyway, I poured it all out on him (poor man) and he settled me down and convinced me to take some of the pain pills he had left over. The strong ones. They had moved him to weaker ones since his pain was much decreased. Well, I took those and the OTC anti-inflammatory meds he’d had recommended as a stop-gap when we couldn’t get his prescription for Celebrex filled right away.

It worked. Monday I was a tad woozy in the head, but essentially pain-free. You cannot believe what a relief that was!

I had Jenny come to all my meetings that day to take notes, because I knew on my own I wouldn’t remember the details of what went on. I could focus, and work, but  I had to do one thing at a time–which I don’t often have the luxury of limiting myself to in this job. We made it through Monday. Tuesday, I’d transitioned to Craig’s weaker pills because we ran out of strong ones, but I was taking them a bit more often than called for. Still, they were working.

Tuesday afternoon, we went to see the surgeon. Craig had booked an appointment for me right after his. We thought we’d get a prescription for some drugs to keep the pain in check.

Craig’s visit went really well, staples out, great report all around. I got X-rays taken and sat down to talk to the doctor about controlling the pain until I could get time to have the knee replaced. I was thinking of having replacement surgery next summer, which had sort-of been our thought all along. Well, he told me the knee was a mess, which I knew already. He talked about how recovery from knee replacement was much rougher than from hip replacement and about how long I’d have to be out, and how essential it would be to make time to take care of the knee, especially if I went back to work. I told him I’d been taking Craig’s pills and that they were working quite well. I asked for a prescription. He said I should stop taking the narcotics because it would make it difficult to control the pain after surgery. He said he’d give me a prescription for a non-narcotic pain reliever, not as strong as the other, but enough to take the edge off. Then he left the room, and I started to cry.

Poor Craig! He didn’t expect that. Nor did I. It was just the thought of going back to the constant pain. Took me by surprise. Craig had the doctor come back in, but I couldn’t even talk to him. Craig had to tell him why I was so upset. It’s still embarrassing to remember. Anyway, the doctor said he would do the surgery any time I wanted, any day of the week, even on a Saturday morning. And he wrote a prescription for the narcotics, but he still told me not to take them unless I absolutely had to. So I am dealing with it by staying off my feet as much as possible when I am home. Fortunately, Craig is doing well enough that he is taking care of me more than I of him lately.

And the surgery? The plan is to have it done the last week of September. I’ll be home for three weeks, the doc says. But that is a fairly slow time for the deanship (so I’ve been told) and will catch one week of fall break.

And that is why the home part of my life right now is boring. I do a bit of shopping or working around on weekends, but then I have to sit for the rest of the day. I enjoyed working on the Christmas anthology story, but now that’s done. And it is hard to get myself to work on writing the blogs. There’s just so much thinking and learning to do during the week, my head has no interest in deep thought over the weekends.

(Craig doesn’t see this as a problem. He is happy because I’ve been spending so much time with him (near the television) instead of moving into the study and working.  I haven’t done anything lately except revisions and formatting on the anthology story. Still, I think for the short term, at least, I need to focus on fiction. I am thinking of re-writing Sally’s story. I like the tone of the anthology piece and think Toss Up (my second romance novel) might be a little too explicit. But we’ll see what happens with that.)

As I adjust to the job, and health problems get cleared away, I plan to get back to more frequent posting here–though daily might still be a bit too much. Check out the big reveal in my revised ‘About’ page. And have a wonderful September.

Until next time…

Susan Craig

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Playing nurse… Days 101-110

It has been very strange trying to keep things moving at work and at home. We have entered the crazy season just before the university opens for the fall semester. And one week ago today, my husband had hip replacement surgery.

The things that I need to do in each arena are completely different, beginning with the biggest… focus here or focus there. It has been rather like trying to juggle feather balls with anvils. Unfortunately, the natural result is that neither area has my full attention, even though I’ve done my best to set each fully aside as I work on the other.

Today my husband, who has been patient and uncomplaining throughout, is feeling a little punk and having a testy, cranky, unhappy sort of day. The change is not easy for me to deal with. Even on my most nurturing and compassionate day, I would make a lousy nursing assistant. But we’ve made it through to 8 pm… the end is in sight.

When the doctor told us my husband would need someone with him for the entire first week home, I thought, “Great! Time to get the four-year plans for the majors begun. And get the garage organized.”


Almost every moment that I am not helping him, or cleaning up the various messes that we make, I am spending on the computer struggling to simply keep up with the email from work. I guess part of the reason today has been hard is that I am getting a little discouraged, too.

But, hey. Tomorrow is another day. Thumbs up!

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Life turns inward… Days 92-100

My focus this last week has changed. Home has a greater grip on my mind than work. That could be because I am beginning to get a grip on the job, or it could be because I don’t get lost driving around nearly so often as I used to. But the most likely reason for the change in focus… the true reason, I believe… is that my husband will have surgery next week to replace his hip with a prosthesis.

The job is still demanding. I have appointments scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But Wednesday is set aside for waiting at the hospital.

They told us the surgery would take about two hours, with another two or three hours in recovery before we will see each other again. Five hours to wait. I am not young enough to think I will actually get any work done in that time. I may play at working nonetheless, but it will have to be on tasks that are essentially mindless. My mind and heart will not be with me; they will be with my husband.

Of course, I was a child bride, but still, we’ve been married for almost forty-two years and together for nearly forty-five. I don’t expect it to be a quick five hours. Yet, I am eager for Wednesday. He has been in such pain for the last four months, it makes my sore knees seem moot. God bless surgeons.

I’ll be in touch again on the other side.

–Susan Craig

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