Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#FeelingSoLindy

        I've been tagging some of my photos and posts on Instagram and Facebook with this hashtag for nearly a year now. I get the question all the time- what does that mean?

       I thought I would explain it real quick.

       Lindy Johnson is the main character in my new series. Her debut book, Caskets & Conspiracies, introduced her ( and her many flaws) to the world. Lindy lives with the chronic disease, multiple sclerosis. She hides it away where others can't see it, and very few people know her struggle. No one would ever guess that Lindy, a successful private investigator, has issues with sight, sensation, and vertigo, just to name a few. While she is often selfish and short sighted, she is also strong and determined. Lindy is the most real and human character I believe I have ever written. She's far from perfect, and she makes no apologies for it.

      There are moments in my life, and maybe you have them too, where I feel overwhelmed and lost. The desire to give up and give in is strong but I dig deep and I try harder (sometimes after a good cry and chocolate which is always permitted in my world) and I push through the frustration and pain.

      That is #FeelingSoLindy

      Sometimes I feel a little rebellious. I don't like the social norm. I don't like being told that I can't do this or that's just not practical. I fight the system. I have little acts of rebellion, sometimes in secret, often times very open. I fight for change and equality. I refuse to be silent.

    That is #FeelingSoLindy

    There are people without a voice. People that are too afraid to speak, too ashamed to speak, or just smothered to the point that they cannot speak. I try to speak for them. I try to bring them into the light. I help where I can and sacrifice my blessings to aid them, even if no one ever sees me do it.

    That is #FeelingSoLindy

    I did not base Lindy's character profile off my own personality.We wouldn't see eye to eye on many topics, least of which being love, but there are moments when I can feel her influence. Those are the moments where I am feeling so Lindy;

    What are your #FeelingSoLindy moments? The next time you're feeling strong, or determined, overwhelmed or rebellious, borrow the tag. It feels good to be #FeelingSoLindy

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Confession

            So, what is the secret part of the Secret Life of a Renegade Gypsy Cowgirl? Well, here it is.
            My name is Nellie. I am a 32-year-old Christian who has been married nearly 13 years. My secret is I have multiple sclerosis. 
            Nearly four years later, I still hate saying it out loud. It's not as if not saying I have MS changes the diagnosis, but I hate it. Only those who are closest to me were informed, until one of my fellow MS'ers "outed" me from the church pulpit; boy, that was awkward. I admit I was mad at first, but I came to see the gift he gave me that day, not letting me remain hidden in the shadows while I had people who loved me and could support me. 
            There are so many different aspects that play into why I don't normally tell people about my diagnosis. I could give you examples from my life, but who wants to wallow in all that? Suffice it to say, I have seen expressions ranging from pity all the way to the opposite side of, “Get over yourself; you don’t look that bad.”
I guess I don’t look that bad. I stay active—kickboxing, jogging when my legs cooperate, and some major booty-shaking with some dance aerobics DVD’s (I make sure I’m alone for that embarrassment)—so I guess it can be hard to see the struggle. But it’s still there. Do you ever feel that way, hidden in plain sight? It reminds me of the poem “Not Waving but Drowning” by Stevie Smith which depicts a man who fell overboard but no one rescues him because he looks as though he’s having a grand ol’ time waving from the surf, but whoops, he died.
            Don’t worry, on most days I’m still waving, not drowning. MS hasn’t beaten me yet. Sure, it’s knocked me down a few times, left me fatigued and disoriented as well, but I’m still keeping my head above water.
            So why have I kept it all to myself for the most part? The real reason is simple: I don't like to say it out loud. I don't want to hear it. I don't want to admit to myself that this is a part of my life and it probably always will be. I don't like to acknowledge the monster in me, even though I can feel his claws and smell his awful breath. If I say it out loud, it feels real, and I'm never sure that I am strong enough for this to be real. I am ashamed of the weakness that MS brings me.
            But I realize how flawed this logic is. Not admitting it does nothing to help me and everything to hurt me. Fear of a title is silly: it does not change my reality to hide away the truth, and leaves me alone in the dark rather than motivating me to help the others who are just as terrified as I am.
            Where is my faith? Where is my strength? Something only has power over us if we are willing to give it that power. When we stand in the light, the darkness must flee. So why don't I tell people? Because these are my weakest parts. I feel exposed, vulnerable, and naked where everyone can see the seams that pull and strain under the load. I hate feeling that way, but doesn't everyone?
            I am very blessed to have people in my life who don't see the monster inside me. They know it's there, but they know that while it is a part of me, it does not define me. These are the people who see me when I fall apart, but instead of reminding me of everything I should have been doing so that it never happened, they pick up the slack without a word and make my life worth living again. These people see Nellie. I am forever grateful to the people who forget that I have MS and never stop wanting to be there because I do.
            So why now? Why so much honesty now? 
            I started writing Caskets & Conspiracies as a private investigator story, but as I thought about characters and their flaws, I saw an opportunity to shed some light on MS. Most people have no idea what MS is, or how it feels. They assume people with MS are in wheelchairs or on arm crutches, and they don't realize how many of us are out living our normal lives, diseased in secret. As I started doing research, I could see the whole spectrum of the MS world—different symptoms, different outlooks, so many different lives—and I wanted my main character, Lindy, to take a sampling from all of them. I wanted her to take the two sides of our world: the darkness of the fear and the light of our hope.
            The dedication in the book is to Mary and for those without a voice in the darkness. As I wrote, I started to realize that it's not just MS without a voice. Monsters come in different shapes and sizes—addiction, depression, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, heartache, and so many others—and they can be just as hidden, just as hard and awkward to explain to people, but just as real. The people that fight them deserve to have a voice as well. Those warriors deserve to be lifted up and empowered just as much as anyone else.
            The Lindy Johnson series is about a woman that is far from perfect—proud, a little rude, selfish, and isolating. She has a good heart and she wants to help,
but she is scared. Scared of life. Scared of love. Scared to lose. Scared to die.
            How many of us can relate to that? I couldn't count how many times I lie awake in the dark and wonder if I'll wake up tomorrow. For me, it's a trial of faith, and I am grateful for my Christian beliefs, especially my faith in Christ, whose grace carries me most days.
            It is my hope that someone will find strength in the Lindy Johnson series and stand up and fight just a little bit harder against the monsters. I've spent too much time hiding, and not enough time lifting the others around me. That ends now. I won't hide in the darkness anymore.
            I guess my thought is that if I can help someone else like me, still scared of monsters and the dark, then honesty and some raw vulnerability is worth it. No one should have to be alone in the dark. 
            My name is Nellie. I am an author. I have multiple sclerosis. I will not be ashamed anymore.
#FeelingSoLindy

Friday, January 29, 2016

Forget me Not Remember me Always

I've been wanting to write this post for quite some time but between the books being edited, the books being written, the horse needing to be fed and the family that I love to spend time with, I'm only making the time now. 

While I was writing Caskets & Conspiracies it became necessary to research memory implantation and false memories. While I was doing that research, I came across this article. It is found at smithsonian.com and it deals with two scientists that have successfully implanted a memory in a mouse. 

 "The observation culminated more than two years of a long-shot research effort and supported an extraordinary hypothesis: Not only was it possible to identify brain cells involved in the encoding of a single memory, but those specific cells could be manipulated to create a whole new “memory” of an event that never happened."


Now the psychology lover in me is really excited by this information. Really Excited. Yes, it is just a mouse, but let me tell you that's where it all starts. The idea that we could actually pinpoint a memory and rewrite it is almost God-like in its application. 

That's where the non-scientific side of me becomes more than a little nervous. We could rewrite memories. 

Think about that for a second. 
We could rewrite memories. 

Yes, there are situations where this could be more than practical. There are certain events in a person's life that have the ability to break them. Could we undo a psychotic break if the memory of whatever event triggered it was erased? What about young children that live through horrible abuse? Could we overwrite those memories with new ones that could potentially shape a happier future? 

But- What about the other side. We are our memories. History is just a collection of memories. If someone had the power to rewrite new memories in the masses, what would stop them from rewriting history? 

I know. It would make a good book right? But this is real. All of this could eventually become very real in the future. It all starts with that little white mouse and curiosity.

The article points out, "Though the work so far has been done on lab mice, the duo’s discoveries open a deeper line of thought into human nature. If memories can be manipulated at will, what does it mean to have a past? If we can erase a bad memory, or create a good one, how do we develop a true sense of self? “Memory is identity,” the British author Julian Barnes writes in his memoir Nothing to Be Frightened Of. “You are what you have done; what you have done is in your memory; what you remember defines who you are.”


As a writer, the idea opened a world for me and I ran with it. I am excited to share Lindy Johnson's first adventure "Caskets & Conspiracies" with the world in the very new future. 

But first I want to hear from you. I asked this question on my Facebook Page, but I want to ask it here as well. 

If you had the ability to erase and rewrite a memory, would you do it?

Most people said no they would not. 

Then I asked my second question.

If your child endured a traumatizing event, one that would change the course of their life, would erase and rewrite their memory?

That was where the answers differed. But what do you think?