Monthly Archives: January 2014

This writer’s battle with CFS, food, stress, and no exercise

CFS, food, stress, lack of exercise

CFS (or ME or ME/CFS or CFIDS or…) brings along all of the problems of chronic illness, and a few unique ones of its own: crushing fatigue, brain fog, pain, post-exertional collapse (I refuse to use PEM = post exertional malaise – malaise is a ridiculous term for what happens; it means ‘feeling slightly ill’), and a whole host of medical problems that vary and have names like ‘POTS’ and Orthostatic Intolerance (can’t stand to stand). If you have it, you already know; if you don’t, it would take too long to explain here.

There seem to be two kinds of CFS folk at the extremes (we have both in our support group): the ones who have gastric problems, and can barely keep enough down to hold body and soul together; and the ones, like me, for whom CFS means an increase in weight.

Think about it: there you are, no energy, in pain, stressed, and in a state of brain fog. Your body knows a few things: eating provides sugar to the bloodstream, which the body uses for energy. If you have CFS, you know the state I mean. (If you don’t, think of how a candy bar can give you some quick energy.) So the body fights hard to get you to throw it some of that sugar, so it can get some energy. If that worked, we’d mind the weight less – but it doesn’t work, so the body keeps trying the easy out: eat something, preferably with sugar.

The no-real-exercise capacity problem

The complete lack of the availability of exercise is a huge component to this. Continue reading

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Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 10, Scene 2

This week’s post continues Chapter 10, with Scene 2 (1.10.2). Chapter 9’s scenes will be consolidated on the Chapter 9 page (as soon as I get there – aargh!).

I’m trying a new feature – quotes courtesy of different quote-makers. This week’s comes from Quozio.com – free. Let me know if you like the images – I’m picking something interesting in the scene of the week.

Additional beta readers welcome – contact me if you’d like to participate (and get to read things earlier).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 10, Scene 2


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.

Staring at the wall – a primer for writers

I need to write. It is as physical a need as sleep, more so some days. If I can’t write fiction, I’ll break out in journal notes, notebook annotations in longhand, long emails to friends, comments on the blogs of all those nice people who let me, or, since I have this blog, posts.

Stress, CFS, living, and writing

For personal reasons I won’t go into, the past two weeks have been incredibly stressful. And I have pretended, very badly, to be a functioning adult human woman. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 10, Scene 1

This week’s post begins Chapter 10, with Scene 1 (1.10.1). Chapter 9’s scenes will be consolidated on the Chapter 9 page.

Additional beta readers welcome – contact me if you’d like to participate (and get to read things earlier).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 10, Scene 1


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.

Writing out the side window – a different view

I was on a long drive with my daughter in my minivan, which has a problem with the passenger-side seat belt. Not wanting to battle with it – and, yes, putting it firmly and yet again on the short to do list – and needing a nap to help drive safely – I rode in the middle seat behind the passenger seat.

A nap was nice, but, before she reached a rest stop where we could switch positions, there was a long chunk of time where I was awake – and I couldn’t see forward because the headrest completely blocked my forward vision.

This is an uncomfortable position to ride in, because, as the mother of a young adult, you sometimes still remember teaching them to drive, and are more comfortable riding shotgun to keep an eye on the road for them. For them. Uh huh. Continue reading

What do you carry for a portable writing resort?

Minimum ‘stuff’ to take so you can write

What is the minimum you need to port your writing wherever you go?

There are different ways to write when you are away from your home base, and I’ve tried many of them, with the intention of taking advantage of small (few minutes to a couple of hours) to large (several weeks) periods of away time.

I find it useful, with my fogged brain, to work the details out on paper ahead of time – everything below gets a place on my checklist for packing. Then I take what I will need – without having to think in a hurry.

In my regular, mostly stay-at-home, life I have a very nice setup: hubby got me a huge high res TV for a monitor – 42” (diagonally, but who’s measuring?). I have my printer at my fingertips, plenty of desk space (if I keep it even moderately tidy), and file cabinets and drawers and plastic file trays galore.

I brought my daughter back to her college apartment, and am staying with her until she’s organized and ready for the new term. Not to be in the way when she doesn’t need me, I brought ‘my writing.’ We made the decision to go – within hours we were packed; she made an appointment at school and we didn’t have a lot of thinking time. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 9, Scene 5

This week’s post continues with Chapter 9, Scene 5 (1.9.5).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

Still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 8

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 9, Scene 5


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 9, Scene 4

This week’s post continues with Chapter 9, Scene 4 (1.9.4).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

Still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 8

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 9, Scene 4


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Freeing the writing mind from the constraints of story time

Time is a dictatorship

My left brain is linear. Orderly. And must eventually win: the words I produce on the screen or page will have to load into the brain, even in chunks, in an orderly fashion.

I call that the tyranny of the chronology. Or the tyranny of time. Tyranny, in any case.

Even if the story is being told non-linearly, with foreshadowing and backstory, and revisits the same events from different points of view, the ORDER of the words in the final product must be a queue: one behind the other.

We are creatures of time, mired in time, stuck in time – and used to dealing with input presented to us, in time.

Half our metaphors and cliches involve time:

A stitch in time saves nine.
In a timely manner.
Time heals all wounds.
Time to die. Time for dinner.
To everything, turn, turn, turn.

Our most common question: What time is it?

We’re born.
We live.
We die.
In that order.

Time is a relentless dimension, going always headlong into the future from the past, with a moment only in the present – and we are dragged along, willy nilly.

So much so that we hardly notice it.

Time and the right brain – not copacetic

The right brain, which doesn’t do things that way, is also dragged along. Even if it takes in many things at one perception, each instant in time will bring a different set, to be perceived and dealt with – if possible – before being assaulted by the next.

This affects writing in many different ways, but especially in giving a power to the words already on the page – in their ordered stream. The left brain resists changing that which is already sorted into a linear order. It did all that work to organize things, and now you want to change their order? It demands to know, Why? It gets in the way of finding a better order, a more coherent whole.

Busting out from the constraints of linear time

For me, one of the best ways to stop that linear progression is to go to paper: a fresh sheet of scratch paper invites scribbling. Pencil, pen, colored markers. A neon yellow highlighter. A printed copy of the current version or pieces of older versions invites scissors and tape. And rearranging. Always rearranging. Clumping – and stringing out. Grouping in different ways.

I know there is software for that – to make a screen more like a whiteboard. Maybe the next generation will be comfortable with its freedom, and not notice its inherent limitations: the screen doesn’t allow you to cut it into pieces.

But ‘going to paper’ stops time for me for long enough to see if this fiction has a BETTER timeline in it, a different order for all those perceptions and illuminations of the right mind.

Manipulating the reader’s time

Always in mind is the idea of how to slip all these bits and pieces of the story into the reader’s head so a coherent whole story can assemble, KNOWING the reader’s mind is different from my own, KNOWING that the story for the reader will be different from my version in many and subtle ways because every head is a whole world, and every world in a mind is different from every other one. Presenting the building blocks in the best way I can think of to invoke the reader’s use of her built-in software.

Overcoming my OWN Resistance to changing anything – to make it better – requires that I manipulate time for my own purposes, which also requires that I step out of the constraints linear time puts on ME.

‘Going to the paper’ does this every time I try it: there is something magical about messing with time, but I have to do it non-linearly, with different tools than my usual ones, and in a way that takes me back, metaphorically, to when it was okay to scribble anything anywhere (and I even had a hard time staying on the paper), before I was truly conscious of time, when there was only ‘now.’

I have to do a lot of year-end paperwork. It is stressful and confusing, and requires decisions from a mind not functional yet this morning. Making notes on paper, scribbling, adding bits and pieces, and making arrows from one piece to another – going to the paper – is the only way I’m getting through it.

How do you finagle ‘time’?

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 9, Scene 3

Aargh! Last week I was so smug about being a day early – this week I am a day late. First miss since I started in February.

In my defense, yesterday was NOT Tuesday, it was ‘Dec. 31’ and ‘end-of-the-year tax day,’ which absolutely had to be done. The IRS is so not forgiving.

Daughter’s tuition was due EARLIER than last year (1/3 vs. 1/8), so got added to the general craziness.

And I went to a marvelous New Year’s party and Sing – and we were still at it, in full voice, at almost 2am.

At least I avoided multiple trips to the banks. All done by phone or online.

Enough about me – hope your New Year’s Eve was amazing.

This week’s post continues with Chapter 9, Scene 3 (1.9.3).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

Still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 8

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 9, Scene 3  [Andrew]


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.