Wednesday, August 14, 2019

One Year Gluten Free Changed Everything—and I Used to Think it was a Bunch of B.S.

For years I thought of gluten-free as a bunch of B.S. and a fad. That's simply based on my own jaded perception of dieting and nutrition. I got sick of the ever-changing healthy/not healthy information shoved down my consumer throat. 

Boy, was I wrong about gluten.

I don't have Celiac Disease and I believed what I heard and read that it was the only real reason to avoid gluten. I never noticed gluten particularly upsetting my stomach, but I'm pretty good at ignoring symptoms when I'm busy. 

Then one fine day I was reading The Better Bladder Book—I'm sure you've read it—because I'd developed Interstitial Cystitis and it was getting worse. The author casually commented that if you have Sjogren's Syndrome (I have a mild case) you shouldn't eat gluten. 

For a couple minutes I sat there trying to recall how long I've had Sjogrens. I stopped tallying at the ten year mark. As Gummy would say, NOBODY TOLD ME. Really they never had, but to be fair I've not seen that doctor since, well, let's not get mathy about it.

I read that book last April and I tried to give up gluten immediately. By tried I mean I stopped eating things with bread and flour. It took me about six weeks or so to realize there's a lot more to going gluten-free. There's gluten in everything: salad dressing, malt, additives, preservatives, dried fruit sometimes (flour on the conveyor belt), CHEESE now and then, meat sometimes, omelettes occasionally, etc.

Gluten is in everything like Corn Syrup used to be.

Before I'd eliminated all gluten from my diet I went through a couple weeks of abject misery with my flaming Interstitial Cystitis. While traveling. It had been progressively getting worse and I was seeing a specialist. Then something miraculous happened.

By last June and about a week after I eliminated ALL TRACE of gluten from my diet the I.C. bladder spasms stopped completely. It's been over a year now and I've not had them one time. Not. Once. They had been stealing about three days a week from my life. Then they stopped. 

I Could NOT Believe it!

My Urologist could not believe it either. I'd seen her quarterly and this spring we realized it's been nearly a year since I had a single episode of flaming bloody wee. *insert hallelujah choir here*

She told me I didn't have to come back anymore. I graduated.

You know how annoying ex-smokers are about secondhand smoke? I'm now way worse than that about gluten. I don't even want to go out to eat anymore. It's a hassle and a surefire way to inadvertently  get gluten. But between travel and social situations it's unavoidable. Usually I research the restaurant ahead, ask when I arrive—if they can accommodate gluten allergies—and quiz the poor waiter.

ARE YOU SURE, I say in my Spanish Inquisition tone.

One of my kids said, "MOM, please stop telling total strangers you'll piss blood if you eat gluten."

Okay, I don't say PISS. But I need them to know I'm not kidding! I stopped saying pee though and have substituted it with internal bleeding. I mean your bladder is internal, right? 

The cool thing, besides being healed OMG, is that I don't miss bread or cake or cookies or anything that's gluten. It feels like poison to me now. Maybe it's just me but I find flaming piss to be quite inspirational. 

Sorry, sorry.

That was a little funny though, right? Now I've been giving milk and sugar the stank eye and wondering if that would help with the vestibular migraine. I mean it's worth a try isn't it? The only thing holding me back is CHAI LATTES because CHAI LATTES. 

Tell me you understand. If you don't, sorry about the health-related post. I have to share my gluten success story for the other canaries. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

My Epic Random & Lazy Fashionista Self—Confessions of an Introverted Shopper

S.R. Karfelt, Stephanie Karfelt, travel, writer

There's a brand of clothes on Amazon called Sakka that I've taken a liking to. It's a bit Bohemian and summery, and the price is right. They don't wash easily, and the color fades, but that suits a summer love doesn't it? 

Last fall I was all over PattyBoutik, also available on Amazon. Her tops are longish and fitted. They're also a comfy cotton, unlike the lightweight flowy tops and dresses by Sakka. 

It's easy to be a fan of both brands. They're comfortable and ordering them is easy.

My favorite thing to wear is a pair of ancient Levi's—something so old and thin that you can wear them on ninety degree days and it feels like comfy cotton. I like them with an extra long sleeveless tank top in summer, and a long-sleeve t-shirt in cold months. But I'm trying to step-up my wardrobe a bit. 

Comfort is my big motivator. I've gained weight but feel no obligation to cover my pasty arms. While shopping with a friend she mentioned how tunics hide the bum. I shared my uncooperative fashion nature and admitted I felt no need to hide mine. Sure it used to look better, but if you don't like it I don't really care. Look at your own backside.

It's mine, not yours. 

There's this thing about being female that I just can't get on-board with. You can survive terrible things, become independent and successful in all areas of life, and write books about it—but dammit, woman, why's your arms floppy?

Being strong is what I ask of my body. Can I lift up small children? Can I take the stairs two at a time? Can I pull myself back into the canoe? Maybe not that last one so much very well, but you get my drift.

Despite the super-strength in my massive calves and soft arms, I'm still interested in comfortable clothes that look nice. They make me happy. I'm reading that Walter Isaacson book on Leonardo da Vinci. He liked to wear rose tunics and looked dashing sporting curls. We humans are a vain lot, and not much has changed since his time (he was born in 1452).

I like new clothes for special occasions and sometimes for my travels. In Egypt I settled for cotton t-shirts and capris in olive and stone. They're excellent for climbing pyramids, camels, and into tombs. I thought they gave me a rather Raiders of the Lost Ark look as I dug them out of the bowels of my closet just before my flight. On the way home, I left them behind. Sometimes I do that when I pack light and wear the same things over and over. 

Yes, I literally have worn favorite clothes to death. 

Like you haven't. My favorite white blouse had become one with the desert. It was never going to be white again. Usually when I travel I take a few outfits and shop for something new wherever I go. Last time I went to London, I took my favorite autumn clothes from here in the shire—short suede boots, epic jeans, and my coolest blue plaid jacket. I definitely looked like country mouse hitting the big city.

My London friend said, "Are you wearing that?" when we dressed to go out, giving my AWESOME BOOTS the stank eye. 

When I went back to London a couple months later I knew the rules. It's like in New York City. You can't go wrong wearing all black. You're looking chic now, country mouse.

In Greece I know how to dress, although I've made the mistake of taking jeans in summer. I wear lightweight jeans in the Arizona desert all the time. But it's defense against prickly cacti.

Light flowing clothing is what you want in Greece in summer. Something comfortable in blaring white heat. The summer sun there is so brilliant that it effects my vision. One summer I bought a solid silver bracelet. I like the whiter silver they sell in Greece and pick a new piece each visit. Know why that particular bracelet looked so white? It is white. I didn't notice the decorative white paint until I was on the plane home.

Long ago I used to pack for a trip far ahead. Now I tend to notice that the calendar has rolled into a travel month and I tear through my closet hoping for miracles. The little mall here in the shire has lost store after store, but I race down there full of misplaced hope. 

Shopping isn't my thing, but when I do go through the hassle of getting into a store I buy like it's my job. I might need clothes for other things this year so I stock up. That way I don't have to come back! 

By the time I get home from the maul, all the energy has been sucked from my body. I don't have the strength to look at that stuff again. I throw the bags into my closet. Later I'll pack them for a trip with the tags still on. That's sometimes a problem if I didn't try them on to begin with.

Last summer my workshop trip to Greece was later in the year. But I went to the mall early in anticipation, and because I was running dangerously low on everyday tank tops. Hoping to avoid ever having to shop again I bought one in every color. 

This week I hit Amazon because I've about worn those tops out and even that store has closed now. It's 3:30 a.m. now and I just ordered a couple more tops and a pair of over-priced jeans that reviewers say are so thin they're perfect for summer. How could I resist?

The thing about online shopping that I like best are REVIEWS. Does the dye rub off? Does it fall apart in the wash? Is it comfortable? That's what appeals to me. You'd think I was picking a surgeon I'm so picky about my Amazon and online purchases. I'm not sure it takes me any less time than going to a store. I even impulse buy. 

Yes, since you asked, I could use an agate pyramid!

At the mall I honestly just want to get out as soon as possible. The layout of the stores sucks my life force. I detest the ones that are mazes and force you deeper into the belly of the beast when all you want are underthings. 

That's why I often stick with brands I know and online shopping. Levi's are comfortable, or old ones are. That's again why I wind up shopping online. It's peaceful and efficient and I can find what I need. 

Know what would draw me into a brick and mortar shop over online shopping? Besides if the store carried useful and traditional styles over so much low-quality fluff? Helpful sales staff—that doesn't mean feigned friendliness. Mandatory forced fake enthusiasm from employees doesn't work for me. Sometimes it borders on mania. Customers, like all people, know when you don't mean it. Being polite is enough, being honest is even better. 

It does bother me to see malls shutting down, and I briefly
reconsider online shopping. I do shop local when I can, but here in the shire that is almost exclusively specialty shops. As always a single trip to the dying mall tends to send me right back online. Even when I go into Victoria's Secret or a local shoe store I often end up ordering what I wanted that wasn't in the store. Business is a matter of meeting economic need isn't it? The onus has to be on the shops and businesses. I dream of a store with quality clothing and useful products that's very different from most mega mall shops. Is it me? How guilty do you feel about online shopping? Any other shopping introverts out there? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

That One Time I Got Stranded on the Island of Skiathos in Greece

Without naming names I can tell you that once I got stuck behind the Disney Electric Light Parade in Disneyland California. As Aladdin flew by on his magic carpet and Cinderella waved from her carriage, the preschoolers I was with fell to the ground and sobbed out the injustices of their lives. Their heartless mother laughed and laughed with zero pity in her heart. 

Don't you wish you could be stuck in Disneyland right now?

Every summer I go to a writing workshop on a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. The workshop is hard work. Getting there is hard work. To get there this year I'll be flying from a small airport in New York to Detroit. Then I'll fly from Detroit to Chicago. After that it's an overnight flight from Chicago to Athens, Greece. Mind you before I leave Chicago I'll have been traveling for twelve hours already.

When I get to Athens I'll stay at the Airport Sofitel. After twenty-four hours of travel it's time to sleep. The next day I fly from Athens to the island of Skiathos. It's a popular tourist destination for parts of Europe. I meet people from England, Germany, and Italy there. 

Depending on my flight from Athens and the ferry schedule, sometimes I spend a night in Skiathos. I like to stay around the port area. I walk along Papadiamanti Street and the sea. It's very touristy with yogurt shops and tavernas. There are kababs of chicken souvlaki, blindingly strong cups of Greek coffee, and places to buy a wide brimmed hat to wear on the ferry. 

Like many towns in Europe the streets are filled with pedestrians but SURPRISE it is a road too so watch out for scooters and vehicles while you shop or use the ATM. 

Usually I stay at the Aretousa, Filoxenia, Hotel Kostis, or Meltemi. Sometimes the stars align just so and after a few hours of wandering the port I can catch a ferry to Alonissos the same day. 

There are slow ferries and fast ferries/hydrofoils. The slow ones are huge and filled with cars and trucks ferrying between islands. I like to slather myself in sunscreen, plop on a hat and sit outside on the slow ferry and watch the sea as we stop by Skopelos (of Mama Mia island fame). Sometimes dolphins swim the ferry wake. 

No matter how long it takes me to get to this point I always know that it's all been worth the effort as the stress of a long journey drowns behind me in ferry wake the color of wintergreen breath mints. 

Eventually we arrive in the port of Alonissos. Gathering luggage and disembarking is chaotic, but this place feels like home. 

The return journey is the same thing in reverse. It's not nearly as refreshing though—leaving is always hard. I get nostalgic, farewell monk seals, farewell to my balcony over the port, farewell writers, farewell Aegean blues, dolphins, tomatoes, and lavender.

Skiathos seems loud and abrasive now, something to be endured after my weeks of floating and writing. But I make my way to the Skiathos airport and drift to my seat at the gate and wait, wait, wait. 

Once after several delays my flight never arrived. Cancelled. My vacation float vanished that quickly. I had a hotel in Athens that night and an early morning flight in the morning. That flight would be airborne before I could get tomorrow's flight out of Skiathos.

I was STRANDED in Greece, TRAPPED on Skiathos. I took it better than those preschoolers at Disney. On the outside.

My hotel in Athens was non-refundable. I'd chosen the cheaper fare. My Greek travel agent took my call at nearly midnight, apologizing though he'd done nothing wrong and booking me a hotel for tomorrow. I tried to call my international airline's 800 number to change that flight home. Those numbers don't work internationally. They're for the USA only.

Around me airline employees began the slow process of re-booking people. There was no quick computer processing. There was literal paperwork going on. People rudely fussed when instructions were given first in Greek, "WHY AREN'T THEY SPEAKING ENGLISH?" This amused me since we were in Greece! Don't blame that comment on Ugly American Syndrome either. I was the only one and I'd lost all hope of going anywhere fast. 

Eventually I was the last person there, still trying to contact my international airline to re-book. I got caught in a loop. I couldn't dial an 800 number from Greece, but I couldn't dial the international number from my American cell phone either. One of the Skiathos employees let me use their phone. I got a new flight to the US leaving in a few days. 

Now I was officially STUCK in GREECE. tee-hee. Let's be real, this is kind of my goal in life. 

Now I had plenty of time, except the lights were being dimmed in the Skiathos airport and employees were leaving. Someone opened their wallet and handed me cash—not vouchers—for dinner. They put me in a lone taxi back to the port area and gave me a hotel to
stay at. That's how I discovered the Meltemi hotel. 

Despite the late hour the port area was in full swing. I picked up bottles of water, dragged my luggage up three flights of stairs to the FIRST floor and dropped into bed. TRAPPED in Greece. I fell asleep watching feet walk up and down the old stone steps outside my window. It was the best night. Ever.

Nothing against Detroit or Philadelphia, but they've got NOTHING on getting stuck somewhere when your flight gets cancelled. Do you feel my joy? Or was that time you got stuck somewhere not wonderful? Dish.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

My Balcony on Alonissos is Magic but The Floor of My Closet Kinda Rocks Too—What Matters Most

At the end of the book Me Before You by JoJo Moyes the main character goes to Paris to sit at a table in an outdoor cafe and experience something profound. I'd tell you what it was, but aside from her acquiring the resources to do it I didn't get it. 

It's not that sitting in an outdoor cafe in a foreign country can't be great, it's a lot of fun. It's not that you can't experience personal growth there, because I think travel is great that way. You see another culture, you get a bigger perspective of the world, you endure the humiliation of air travel. Travel is a great growth experience.

Until 2015 the bulk of my travel was engineering or writing conferences. There was the rare trip across the border into Mexico, and many times I got dragged to Canada to watch my family fish. I usually sat in a cabin under a mosquito net and wrote. But in 2015 I started exploring places I'd read about and always wanted to go see.

It is super cool to sleep on a houseboat in Amsterdam, take a train in Germany, climb inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, or visit Stonehenge. But the ugly truth is sometimes travel is boxed and shallow like a mega mall or amusement park. The same trinkets made in China are sold to tourists in many places. The same photos show up on Instagram—with fast food places, ugly buildings, and tons of tourists carefully cropped out of the shot. The same McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken are nearly everywhere. 

As Mr. Brady so profoundly put it, "Wherever you go there you are." It's not about the place. It's about you. From my point of view a great many tourists don't even care what they're looking at. I've found that if I wait patiently, like an entire ten minutes, that the latest ferry-load or bus-load or ship-load of tourists will clear out of a site, heading for snacks or the next big thing and I can take some epic photos without zillions of people milling about.

That's not always the case. Sometimes those ship-loads of tourists are timed exactly ten minutes apart.

The point is if you're not at a place in your life when you CAN travel, I'm going to go against the crowd here and tell you that you might not be missing as much as rumored. In this day and age you can research a place in-depth and learn about it. I did that old school for places like the Colosseum, The Forum, The Pyramids, and the Acropolis long before the opportunity to go there came along.

Wait for it. Make sure you want it. 

Sure June isn't summer without the Strawberry Moon and sitting beneath a starry sky writing on my balcony in Alonissos, but I think it's fifty years of longing that make Greece so magical for me. 

When I started writing with true intention to get my work published, I did it sitting on a bench with a pencil and paper in my bedroom with the door shut. When I want absolute quiet I like to find a spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon and sit there, somewhere away from the crowds. Sometimes I find that quiet walking in the woods at night. Often it's simply when I'm writing in my messy office.

On busy days before I wrote full-time, my breaks came about when I slid to the floor of my closet. I'd hide there and listen to my own breath as long as I could get away from it.

For me, a person who is interested in most everything, it's the quiet that I cherish.

Many times people in Greece have asked me what the heck I do on the quiet island of Alonissos for a month. I could see Santorini, Crete, or Mykonos! they say.

They don't get it. I know what I long for and I wonder, do they? Do you? Therein lies your magic. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Glimpses of Athens

People crowd the edges of the Acropolis

sentinel tourists of the Parthenon.

I sip iced mountain tea on a rooftop cafe 

debating climbing up the marble outcropping

in slippy sandals again this year. 

The Museumo d' Acropoli

is air-conditioned and

the reading room asks nothing of me.

Where's your ticket? asks a docent.

Um, I had one I swear, checking pockets.

I lose it every year.

Outside I watch a dig through the glass floor 

and inexplicably

buy a crown of golden laurel leaves for €4,

passing on sweetened dried banana chips at €1.50

no, thank you. Ohee, efharisto, in Greek

with an awful American accent.

So much stuff

so many people

uncomfortable taxi rides

"I show you Olympic stadium," again this year,

the coast, Syntagma Square, 

my Ohee NO doesn't always work here.

Nor my persistent STOCK-SEN-A-THO-HEE-O

HOTEL, or at-the-hotel. Please.

Please. Para-ka-lo.

That doesn't work either.
Me and Lawrence at the Acropolis Museum in Athens

The peace of Alonissos vanishes 

into mist in Athens.

Uber back to the hotel

away from Lawrence,

he's why I come here.

Now I have to catch a

flight in the morning.

I'm ready to go.

Until next year, Lawrence. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Oh, Just Shut Up About How Great Your Crappy Website Is—Trying to Get Things Done in the Age of Technology

karfelt, shut up, trying to get things done, technology

It's after 1:00 a.m. and I just got off the phone with American Airlines. All I've been trying to do is reserve a gluten-free meal on an international flight. 

If you google it, you'll get instructions directly from the AA website. Go to "My Trips/Check In", enter your record locator (reservation #). Click on "Entree Reservations" in the "Flight Option". NOPE.

You can search for HOW TO BOOK A MEAL ON AMERICAN AIRLINES WEBSITE or various variations of it. You'll get slightly differing advice. None of it works. When you BOOK the flight you can request a special meal, but only if it's leaving within 30 days. Once you book and return within the allotted time frame you can't access that screen again.

When I booked my flight I figured this would happen. It's like a Murphy's Law of website usage. 

Today I was determined to figure out HOW to book that gluten-free meal online. DANGIT. I'm a capable woman. I can do the things! I'm not even going to admit to how much time I've been working on this. Today was not my first try. Suffice to say give it up and CALL American Airlines to reserve your gluten-free meal. 1-800-433-7300.

Also, when I called them the wait was over an hour to talk to someone who could help me with the website. I left a callback number. An hour and fifteen minutes later I got a representative who was most definitely NOT tech support. Also, she put me on hold for about a half hour. 

But Marianna said she'd booked the meal for me AND said that you can't do it from the website. So ignore the instructions on the AA website telling you how to do what cannot be done.

I'm taking a couple containers of gluten-free instant oatmeal with me for the nine hour flight. If I can't see it on the website, if I didn't do it myself, my life experience has taught me it's just as likely not to happen. 

The past few weeks, oh, who am I kidding? The past couple of decades have been insanely crazy busy in my life. Every day is just another 24 hours of mad chaos. This means I order take out WAY TOO MUCH.

Sometimes I play Panera roulette, which if you're gluten-free and ordering something from Panera Bread you realize is stupid anyway. But I like their salads. I've not gotten glutened with the Green Goddess salad once and I've eaten a lot of them.

I use Panera's app. It's convenient for take out. You walk in and grab your order and walk out. I love technology. About half the time, though, there's a note for me to see the cashier. This means I have to stand in line and wait. Then when my turn comes, they have to figure out why I've been called to the front. Usually this means that they're out of gluten-CONSCIOUS cookies. I get to pick something else. I always say, what else is gluten-free? They give me that YOU DO REALIZE YOU'RE AT PANERA BREAD RIGHT? look. 

Still, half the time I do walk right out of Panera with my order in just seconds. About half the time I do that the order is WRONG WRONG WRONG though. People tell me that you can call them. HAHAHAHAHA. No. Who has time for that crap?

There aren't many take-out choices here in the shire. Last week I was looking for something for my husband and I. He refused to eat another Panera salad. Recently I discovered that Olive Garden has a gluten-free soup "Zuppa Toscana". I was heading out of town on a road trip and had an eye doctor appointment, shopping to do, a soccer game to attend, and a meeting to go to before. 

I figured I'd order the soup online before I left the house. That way I could request it at a certain time and pick it up on way into the mountains. NOPE. Sure, you can order things ahead on the Olive Garden website, I just couldn't put anything in my cart that day. It just buffered while I packed my luggage. I even downloaded and tried the app. NOPE.

So I called the store where, you guessed it, I got put on hold for several minutes to listen to advertisements about how EASY it would be to order online. 

Eventually, after I'd packed the car and was driving to my first errand, I got a person and placed my order. The whole thing worked out fine then. They even boxed the soup up beautifully and it stayed hot on my two plus hour trip. Hubby even liked it. He said, I'm going to order this next time I come up here just for myself. I said, "It's so easy. Just go to their website." That's the kind of wife I am. Why get married if you can't play with your spouse? But I'm telling you the truth, and please feel free to share your favorite unhelpful website stories. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hello Real World—Alonissos is Better

It's nearly time to head to Alonissos again. I've already begun my packing. During winter I dream of that island. My days in Greece are magical and I write constantly, submitting to whatever the muse thinks needs written. The workshop has always been fantastic. The women writers are gifted and kindred spirits. 

Last year I dragged my laptop on the three day journey each way, on and off planes, up and down stairs and ramps deep in the bowels of ferries. I climb so many stairs that they seem as much a part of Greece as the blinding white light and colorful villages built into hillsides. 

It's like traveling with a Stairmaster

But never again, I promised myself, will I take my laptop to Greece. Turns out I'm always much too busy writing to work on my laptop. A pile of sharp pencils and a notebook are all I need to write. Writing by hand is how the Women Reading Aloud workshops work. 

Writing by hand is magical if I've never told you before. I think our brain and deep writer voice work about that speed.

Last year I nearly lost a couple feet boarding a rocking ferry in bad weather while dragging my luggage and laptop. Waves shoved the ship up and I stepped forward clutching all my luggage to show my passport, so absorbed in what I was doing that I didn't realize my toes were under the rocking ramp. Fortunately the guy behind me noticed and pulled me back before the ship came down again. 

That only serves to strengthen my resolve to leave my electronics with all excess baggage at home. 

After the workshop had ended last September, I stayed longer to write more, to do some research for a book, and to be still. One of the things I enjoy about the island I go to in the Northern Sporades is the quiet. I recognize people after all these years. The first couple days I meet up with friends and hike or go swimming at night. 

This past trip I finally saw a monk seal for the first time in all the years I've gone to my workshop. Alonissos is a marine park. It's a preserve for the seals, but there's one seal who the locals call Billy who likes to sun himself on some of the same beaches tourists enjoy. 

Billy was deep into his bliss as I watched him from a distance. Rumor has it that Billy bites. I could just imagine me trying to explain a seal bite to my husband when I got home. While I stood near Billy he never moved until I muttered to myself, is he alive? He lifted his head as though he'd heard me and gave me a look before quickly ducking back into bliss position just as I made a move for my camera. I like him.

He doesn't pander.

If you want to see more pictures from last year that I posted of Alonissos, Billy the Seal, beaches, ferries, my balcony, the stairs (did I mention the stairs?), and even my favorite (or most startling) Greek food on Instagram. Hop on over and check them out! 

In the evenings on Alonissos I sit on my balcony and write by candlelight. Greece is so hot during the day that people tend to stay in for siesta and come out late for dinner. It's not unusual for children to play in the park at midnight or for music from the tavernas to drift up to my room until four in the morning. 

Sitting at my small table overlooking the Aegean Sea I write, enjoying the cooler night air while curtains dance in the breeze and I sip cup after cup of sagey mountain tea sweetened with local honey.

On my last night I paid tribute to the port that unfolded below my balcony; to the tiny Scops owls I only ever hear (but someday hope to see just like the monk seal); to the moon that lit the dark sky before waning away as my days turned into weeks and then a month; to the loud ferries; and the limes growing from trees over the stairwell that bumped my head when I went past. 

Now I'm home and prepping for this year's journey. Over the winter I sorted through piles and miles of books. It desperately needed to be done. It made me smile to discover that I have a small pile of Goodnight Moon books. I have the cardboard one from when my kids were babies, versions for older kids, and some in other languages (I used to try to sneak learning in while they were too small to notice). I even recently bought a copy of Goodnight Lab—a clever knock off for the newest baby in the family. No wonder I had to write my own version from my balcony overlooking the Port of Alonissos, Patitiri. 

Goodnight port, goodnight Scops owls whispering whom.

Goodnight light and the waxing moon.

Goodnight ferries, goodnight limes, goodnight lavender,  goodnight rhymes.

Goodnight Alonissos and these magical times.

If you want to chat about the book world and writing, sign up for my monthly newsletter. Drop me your email at Wonderful things have been happening around here.

Some of this year's writerly travels will be found on Instagram. Though I plan to do more floating that fooling with WiFi this year. I'll be working at writing speed, one foot in front of the other speed, pencil on paper speed. That's the speed of magic, did you know? Slow magic is my thing. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

From Mouse Lover to Soulless Mice Assassin

writer, writing, writers life, karfelt, humor, owl
Thumbprint Mice by Nathan Pitts NOLA Street Artist

Growing up I had a pet mouse that lived in a bird cage. I hung it from the ceiling and left the door open so it could climb out and run across the top of the curtain. I figured he had some freedom that way.

In middle school I picked my friends based entirely on who also liked mice. We were an artsy bunch. The kind of free-range kids allowed mice in bird cages. 

Once a mouse ran across the kitchen. I screamed bloody murder and jumped onto a chair. Everyone got all FOR THE LOVE OF LIGHT YOU KEEP ONE IN YOUR ROOM!

Excuse me, not a wild savage one. Mine curled up in your hand and gave you beady but loving looks. He kept his fur nice and soft and elegant. We're talking a refined City Mouse. NOT a plague-carrying rodent. 

Culture is important when it comes to mice.

Once my pet mouse climbed down the curtain. He jumped onto my bed, curled up on my neck, and attempted to nest there in a bit of my hair. This is the part where I woke up. This is also the part where my inner-assassin awoke. In my sleepy confusion I grabbed him and threw him. 

Fortunately he landed in that pile of clothes I kept scattered on the floor. You'll be happy to know Misobruh was fine. Maybe not as happy because I closed his cage door after that. 

Flash forward a couple light-years. We had a house in the wilds outside of Dallas. One morning I opened the dishwasher and there was a FREAKING MOUSE sitting on top the mugs on the top shelf. I shouted for my mad scientist husband. He came and shut the dishwasher door and TURNED IT ON.

I cried.

Don't worry, Dishwasher Mouse was fine. He was sitting there every time we opened the dishwasher for days. Hubby promised he'd take care of it.

He put out mouse traps.

Nooooooo, don't kill them! I argued, can't you just catch them and put them outside? Nooooo, he said. They'll just come back inside! No they won't, I insisted, mice are smart. At that moment a couple traps snapped closed. SNAP SNAP.

"What's going on?"

"I think we have a mouse problem." SNAP SNAP SNAP

Oh, no! Yes, we had more than Dishwasher Mouse to worry about! The traps were going off in the pantry and the kitchen closet and when hubby opened those doors, mice came running out in broad daylight.

I helped by screaming before gathering my wits. MORE TRAPS, DEATH TO ALL MICE.

I've read about the plague. Supposedly those Texas mice still carry it. I have kids. The choice came easy. And just that quickly I flipped into a rodent murderer. Let's not even get started on ticks. That's another blog post. Also, to further make all decisions fifty shades of grey, Lyme carrying deer ticks originate in mouse nests.

After leaving Texas I moved here to The Shire. There are ticks and mice and deer everywhere.

Now I PAY someone else to kill mice for me. Yes, hate can always get worse. I'm aware of internet judgement for the annihilation of pestilence carrying rodents. I invite you to walk a mile in (or live in) the country and then we'll talk. Even as we speak there is an owl in my attic. I kid you not. He hoots all day long directly above my office. 

Said owl also poos from the ledge where a ventilation fan should have kept his feathery backside OUT of my attic. He perches right there and excretes splashes of owl doo down the side of the house and all over the ground directly outside the window where I work all day (and half the night). 

Don't get your undies in a twist. I would not harm an owl. He is going to be evicted though. Once I figure out how. If I find piles of owl pellets up there I'll let you know. The pellets are those furry balls they yak back up after eating. It's popular to dissect those suckers in science class to see how many critter skeletons you can identify.


At least an owl might keep the mouse population down. Right? Reporting from the bright side here. Hey, it's kinda organic. Right?
dementia, writers life, writer, humor
S.R. Karfelt

All of my former mouse love has now moved to possums. Rumor has it that they eat ticks. 

Keep in mind that I still love and will always love hypothetical Disney-ish mice, like the ones in the painting above and Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird. As I often say, fantasy is always better than reality. That is the motto of this fiction writer. Go ahead and throw yourself on the mercy of the court in the comments section, but I'm only going to listen if you too live in the country and deal daily. It's that whole man in the arena theory. That's my other writerly motto. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ten Ugly Introverted Writer Secrets—that we're far too introverted to tell you

Once another writer argued with me that I was not an introvert. "You're friendly," she said. "You like people." "You're not shy, or socially awkward."

The definition of Introvert that I identify with is simply someone who needs to be alone to recharge. Being with other people for any length of time exhausts me. All the things I bring to the table when I'm with people can vanish in a flash when I run out of energy. 

Not all introverts are shy or socially awkward. I'm more of a part-time hermit. If I use up words by speaking them, I need quiet time to make more. It's tough to be an introvert. It's tough to protect your heart and health by taking the time away to recharge. That leads me right to the first point in my list of Ten Ugly Introverted Writer Secrets.

  1. Sometimes you hurt people's feelings when you take care of yourself. This is the number one problem I've had and the reason why I get overwhelmed, stressed, and can't get my work done. Writing does take a long time, but so does recharging yourself so that you can write.
  2. Lying bothers me. I try not to do it, and I can usually tell when someone is lying to me. I'm pretty good at reading faces, voices, and between the lines. When I say no, or that I can't do something, that should be enough reason. No. I can't. It's simple and clear. Don't press. No one needs or wants to hear that I simply need empty space on my calendar to follow my muse—be that to spend a day hiking in the rain, re-reading The Mists of Avalon for the gazillionth time, staring into the void, or getting into my Jeep and running away for a day or so.

  3. When I'm on a writing binge, it's difficult for me to focus on anything else. I like to say it's tough to jump between universes—that means the one I'm creating as I write and the one you're calling me from. This is why I never answer my phone. If I interrupt my writing, it could take me days to get hold of that writing thread again.
  4. This doesn't have anything to do with being an introvert, but bear with me a moment. Being able to make a living as a writer is almost a lottery in this day and age. Branding is important for marketing purposes. That means that a good deal of the money that goes into marketing a book is spent on names that have been around a long time or celebrities that can guarantee sales, even if a ghost writer wrote the book or a team of them. We all buy stuff because the name is familiar.

    It takes a long time to write a novel when you're writing it yourself. It may or may not get published. Even if it gets published, not-famous writers don't rate much marketing money. On top of that books are going to get pirated. That means it will be stolen electronically. That means we make nothing. One writer friend calls her royalty checks her reality checks. I laughed so hard.

    Few writers can write full-time now. I can despite my non-celebrity status because, along with and mostly because of my husband, I co-founded and ran and after many years sold a nearly insignificant little photonics business. No, I'm not wealthy, but I can make this writing gig my job thanks to it. I'm one of the lucky ones. Still, after all the work that a writer puts into their book, unless you're a charity or a legitimate business contact, please don't ask for a free copy. This leads me to my next point—

  5. Years ago I gave up on asking for book reviews. I'm too introverted to ask, even though as a writer they're crucial to both sales and getting books published. It makes me happy that my books are read, and sometimes I get letters from readers which is better than a review. So I'm not asking for reviews, what I am asking is that when you see me please don't tell me—again—that you've been meaning to post a review and you'll do it soon. Because you haven't, and it's been years, and now you're just playing with me.

  6. Yes. I am judging your grammar online. I will never speak of it, but when you use to or too incorrectly it causes me physical pain. Everyone makes mistakes. Writers too. But you keep doing it. I'm keeping track. Don't worry though. As I said, I'll never be extroverted enough to mention it. Out loud.

  7. When we talk, I'm using you. I'm filing away your stories, sayings, and colloquialisms for possible story use. Don't worry, you'll never recognize your stuff, but while we're being honest here, I thought you should know. This leads me to—

  8. FFS don't tell me something and say NEVER REPEAT THIS. Don't EVER tell me your secrets. NEVER EVER. There are one of two possible outcomes in this scenario.

    This first is that I actively try to remember never to repeat it. It goes into a part of my brain that I monitor. At all times I'm fully aware of everything I've been told that has been filed under NEVER REPEAT THIS. It's a huge burden. It's like I'm using energy at all times NEVER to say (write) these things.

    My brain lights up like a Christmas tree when I write. It's zipping all over the place grabbing bits and pieces of data and world-building. All secrets are in danger during this process. That brings me to the second scenario, I inadvertently use this information. Neither of us wants that. So don't tell me. I'm serious. You'd likely never recognize yourself, but I probably would at some point. That's STRESS.

  9. When someone says, "I don't read" to me, my brain rewords it to, "I don't need no book learnin'. I watch the T.V." Mind you the guy I married only reads photonics magazines, financial stuff, and things related to fishing. Despite your reading habits or lack thereof I will probably still want to be your friend. I may be an introvert, but I like people, and I like people who are completely different than me. How else can I mine you for story fodder?

  10. I over commit. It's because I WANT to do everything. I want to
    be every other person's BFF. I want to hike, travel, get to know you, make you laugh, volunteer, learn to speak three languages, go back to school, learn to fly, become a master glassblower, read most everything, and write 100 books in my lifetime. It's a problem. Because time. And I'm an introvert who knows she needs quiet time. When I go radio silent and appear to be faking my own death, it's really not you. It's me.
Writers, Introverts, what did I miss? What introvert secrets are you far too introverted to tell? Extroverts, thanks for putting up with our crap.

Monday, April 15, 2019

My Badass Nerdy Husband and The Story I'm Not Allowed to Tell

"The doctor said I was lucky I survived," my husband said, looking guilty.

"Did you tell him?" I asked. "Did you tell him that after you rolled the four-wheeler on yourself and winched it to a tree to upright it, that you then rode it for another two hours?"

"No," he admitted, "I just couldn't."

"Well, I can," I said. "I'm going to blog about it."

"You'd better not," he said.

"Too bad. I had to be the one to worry all that night because you didn't want to leave the mountains and go to the ER. I had to be the one to deal when you finally agreed to go to the hospital the next day, and the ER nurse admitted you so fast that they had to run vitals in the hallway. I had to be the one who stayed behind while they took you to a trauma hospital by ambulance."


"If you're lucky, I won't mention the part where right after your rollover, you wanted to have sex."

Obviously he's not lucky, because I'm telling. And no, he didn't get lucky. Well, yes, he got very lucky because even though he broke ribs one and two (which are right over the vascular system and apparently could have killed him), and broke his sternum, and bruised up a lung, he basically walked away. But he didn't get lucky-lucky, which is again lucky, because getting frisky might have killed him. 

Then I'd have had to live with that, although it probably would have made me super-popular among the cruise-ship and widower crowd. People would say, that chick sexed her husband to death, but I want no part of that. I kind of want to keep him and if I'm going to get a badass reputation, it's going to be on my terms. 

Watch out. That chick writes what she wants.

Sorry, not sorry, hubby. Maybe fear of public ridicule will work because my warnings for the past thirty-five years haven't done a darn thing. We have this on-going argument where he tells me that it is normal to break bones now and then (without any underlying condition) and I tell him he knows nothing about normal. Not that I do, but I read a lot.

I love my husband, even though he makes me nuts.

The pain hit him eventually. For a good while he could hardly move. I have to assume that right after the accident he was rolling on some sort of adrenaline rush. But when I mentioned cancelling his upcoming wilderness vacation, he insisted he could do it. 

     "You're going to be able to pack-up and haul a boat all the way to the middle of Nowhere, Canada? You're going to be able to portage all your fishing stuff and two weeks worth of food across two rivers and over a dam? You can't walk upright OR sneeze."

     "I've got a couple weeks to heal."

One thing you learn from being married forever is that all arguments are old arguments. You know exactly what you'll say, and exactly what your spouse will say, ad infinitum because you've had these same arguments so many times they're like ear-worm songs. It's exhausting, not to mention annoying, to argue in rounds for decades. 

     You didn't break down the recycling boxes,
     You didn't break down the recycling boxes,
     You didn't break down the recycling boxes,
     Do you think Jesus does it? Jesus does it? Jesus does it?

     I didn't have time, you know that dear,
     I didn't have time, you know that dear,
     I didn't have time, you know that dear,

     Get off my rear, get off my rear, get off my rear...

So I knew he'd get himself to Nowhere, Canada for his wilderness adventure. I went all Florence Nightingale and went too and helped. Some. Okay, a little. To be fair my husband doesn't just balls out go wild and crazy about everything—he's usually smart about it. He put his boat on a remote control so he could put it in the water and it'd drive itself to the dock and wait for him to park the trailer. 

That's because of the nerdy part of the badass husband. 

Personally I like hubby's nerdiness over his
badassery. It's far less scary. It's taken me months to write this story. I wanted to make sure he didn't sneeze and die or something. Because then it wouldn't be funny in the least, even though then I could say I TOLD YOU SO. Which I would say, and I am saying, and also, I hate ATV's. Jeeps are better, so long as you keep them upright.