Best of the Year! #BOTY2020

     Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Season’s Greetings whatever holiday you celebrate and where!  2020 has been quite a year. I would say my proudest work accomplishment this year as a Middle School English teacher was putting a focus on Socio-Emotional Learning in my classroom by trying to learn what personally motivates my students with various learning abilities from standard, advanced, to gifted learners.  I’m working on building community.  One personal achievement I reached this year was maintaining a connection with my students during COVID lockdown in Florida from March to June.  I would say that it was really rewarding during a time of uncertainty.   

      

Teaching during COVID Lockdown, Spring, 2020.

                       

     This year, I published one book titled Malachi, Ruse Master. It is not specifically sci-fi, but focuses on a character that connects to characters and events in my Detours in Time series.  I really enjoyed writing this one, getting into my character’s head and writing about the struggles of finding your identity when you are a young adult. He works in an unusual job that serves to help him discover many things about himself and his own ethics. If interested, it is on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086VYJYZX

 In 2020, I suffered a frozen shoulder and recieved physical therapy for it. I’d been through PT at the end of 2019 for my back and still use some of the principles and exercises I learned. The shoulder recovered, I’m glad to report. In the process, I read and discovered a lot about how our mindset contributes to pain. Some of it is automatic and takes much work to change, but I am working on the mindset constantly. There are many people who helped me and worked to understand me this year, and I am filled with gratitude. I am trying constantly to extend my circle of gratitude for every little thing someone does for me or every attempt at understanding me. It makes me smile more, which makes people respond more positively to me. It seems to pay off for everyone.

I wore my pearls to honor RBG on voting day, 2020!

COVID anxiety has been a struggle for me, but I’d say it comes and goes, and staying busy or exercising seems to really help.  I struggled with anxiety and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder even before COVID became a concern for the United States this year, so fortunately, I was already working on the problem before lockdown occurred and cases skyrocketed.  It’s odd to say, but the diagnosis came right on time. I’ve read and studied many books on the subject and took an online CBT course this year.  I feel that knowledge and acceptance of our own flaws are both very important.  One thing I do regret is my lack of focus, which really got worsened from COVID lockdown.  I am able to focus on my work but cannot seem to focus also on writing a book.  Never fear! I have an idea in the works, but it will take longer than my former books.

My social life has suffered probably as much as anyone else’s. I have a writer friend I would invite to the house a few times over the summer for coffee and a chat, distanced, of course. My boyfriend and I maintain contact and even went to socialize with some of his friends outdoors on their patio this summer. I had two Zoom meetings with some of the ‘gals’ from work, one of which carried on into a FB group video chat and included some fun app affects!

At least I have my family, I have an understanding significant other, and I have some longtime, trustworthy friends. My mother has had an extended stay at my brother’s house due to COVID concerns, but I am getting her this week. My 24-year-old son and I have been co-existing gracefully, and he is becoming such a generous soul. I remember his teen years, ugh. He certainly has had his own struggles and still has some effects from them. Still, he is finally growing into the person I’ve been trying to teach him to be in the most important ways: gentle, generous, kind to his family members and not so self-centered.

 My biggest lesson learned this year is that our mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. It immensely helps a person’s mental health to tell someone about what is bothering them. I have a stressful job, and just discussing with my boss some of the things I have to go through to get organized and handle certain situations provided such a relief. My anxiety, especially in the holiday season, hits at unexpected times, and I’ve even explained to some of my classes that I feel claustrophobic if too many of them come up to my desk. It has helped. I also cannot concentrate if two people ask me a question at the same time. In my everyday life, I’ve been practicing not keeping things in and speaking my mind in a calm manner. 

I also asked for help, unashamed, from a good work friend before taking the drive to South Carolina. When asked if she’d ride along with me and maybe take turns driving, she said yes without hesitation, looking forward to time away from ‘mom’ duties. I am so thankful! Having her to talk to on the way up was great and kept me calm when I went 20 minutes past the exit for I-95. We laughed it off and kept on going. When traffic was congested in South Carolina, as usual, I said, “I hate this road,” and she said, “It’s okay, we’ve got this.” It was very helpful, as congested traffic makes me feel boxed in, a result of a car accident I had in 2016. Why am I not over that? Why ask why, just make adjustments as needed.

I know there is a little risk involved there.  So, appropriately, my favorite song of the year has been Caution by The Killers.  Okay, it’s a love song, but I want to love my life and ponder predominantly on the positives, so it works! The beat and the lyrics are so inspiring! 

So, I say, speak your mind, throw caution to the wind! Take a risk.  The worst that could happen is that you may not feel accepted by that person, in which case, they don’t deserve your openness. Talk to someone else, then. You will soon find someone who has felt the way you do at some point in their lives. So, I have learned to own my life, my personality, and not be ashamed to share what it means to be me. I may not be able to travel right now, and life and activities may be COVID limited, but I am still going to grow. 

This Best of the Year tradition was first brought to my attention by my global blogger friend Beaton. You may visit his blog at becomingthemuse.net and his Best of the Year at https://becomingthemuse.net/2020/12/17/what-2020-taught-me/ You are invited to share your own, and use the hashtag, #BOTY2020.

In my tradition, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and Best wishes for 2021!

Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Watch RWISA Write Showcase-Laura Finkelstein, 8/03 #RRBC

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Good day, everyone!  Allow me to introduce fellow author Laurie Finkelstein for a featured blog post.  Laurie is a fellow member of Rave Reviews Book club and a member of RWISA (Rave Writers International Society of Authors). I know of her from RRBC and I can proudly say I have read her book, Next Therapist Please, a heartfelt, honest portrayal of events in her life and how she found help dealing with them.  The following is titled, “Bulletproof Vest.”  I think you will enjoy her prose.

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Bulletproof Vest

By Laurie Finkelstein

The bulk, padding, and steel plates weigh me down. The protection of a bulletproof vest is necessary. No matter the weather, I wear the cloak. The weight is a burden, but I trek on because wrapped is the only way to navigate my journey. The jacket protects my heart from being blown to crimson shards of death.

A direct hit is avoided for days and nights, lulling me into calm and complacency. “All will work out fine,” I tell myself. The truth tells a story I want to change. All my will and might does not make an impact to stop the bombardment.

Experience and time separates me from tragedy. At any moment, the bullets strike. Inside or out. My house cannot provide security, nor can a million people surrounding me. With nowhere to hide, I am a target. Shelter and safety are nonexistent.

Discharges are held back while luck and grace harbor me. The slugs will come, however, in a piercing barrage without warning, and will pummel me.

Knocked to the ground, I am immobilized and rendered helpless. My breathing is halted. My movements are stopped, and I understand what assaulted me.

The shockwave subsides, and in small increments, I am able to take in air. Incapacitated, I continue to lie until I am rescued by the rational thinking buried under an avalanche of pain, doubt, and fear. My thoughts check my vitals to make sure I am in the here and now. “Stay in the moment,” I tell myself. “I can manage this. I will persevere.”

“Rise,” I command. The mass of the garb constricts my movement, but I stand, analyze what must be done, and begin to act. The warrior in me comes out. Battles will be fought. My impervious attire gets me through another crisis, and its weight comforts me. Without the guise, I am unable to prevail against the onslaughts, which pop out of the dark corners of another day.

Yes, my vest is cumbersome, but without my swathe I will not withstand the painful projectiles. Clips are filled, ready to punch and knock me down, disabling me should I forget for a moment to cloak myself within my protective armor.

My bullets are not made of lead, surrounded by a dense metal. The projectiles do not come from terrorists intent on decimating me. The ammo does not come from a police state or a dictator’s command. A barrel is not involved.

My bullets are made of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Composed of irrational thoughts, insipid ideations, and ignorant rationalizations, they are crushing invisible forces. The capacity to shatter my resolve and render me dysfunctional invades me.

My unsociable enemy is treatable, but never disappears. My therapists validate my experiences of being trapped, resentful, guilty, shameful, ill-equipped, grief-stricken, lost, uncertain, and disabled. My growth in therapy helps me accept the challenge with compassion and empathy in my heart.

Throughout my lifetime three stages will haunt me.

Stage one is the onslaught of rounds. The crisis mode. The shock and pain.

Stage two is being slammed down, breath taken away. Sabotaged. Terms and feelings of the emergency are acknowledged.

Stage three is advocacy for myself. Stand. Breathe. Make decisions. Tools in hand to counteract the depression and anxiety and OCD. Utilize appropriate response and care.

Encouraged by others, I enroll in Toastmasters. Time for me to improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet. Professional and compelling ways of expressing my views is a talent I want to possess. Persuasive interactions are in reach. My computer with Google as my guide, I find the Toastmasters website. The rules and guidelines answer many of my questions. Ready to take on the challenge, I enter my credit card information and become a member. A direct thrust knocks me down.

At first, I don’t understand what attacks me. My heartbeat begins speeding up. My gasps for air speed up. My head spins with dizziness. The mighty effects of terror hammer me to the ground. Despair sinks me deeper into the attack.

Stage one. The thought of standing before people enunciating in a clear voice avoiding “ums” and “ahs” strikes with negative force. In a semi-frozen state of fear and regret, I struggle to make sense of my attacker. Groups of Toastmasters are warm, safe environments to learn public speaking and leadership skills. “Warm and safe,” I remind myself. Still my heart beats faster and my breath diminishes by the second. A ghost of recognition appears before me. Panic is familiar.

Stage two. My history tells me to take an extra Klonopin. Scared to death is not an option. Upon reaching my medicine cabinet with weak, wobble-producing legs, I discover my pill case empty. In my next move, I check the bottle. Empty. My heart beats faster and my limbs go numb. Sweat trickles down my forehead. My last attempt before I collapse in a heap of despair, I call my pharmacist. My trembling voice separated from my body explains my attack and lack of pills. “How fast can you fill the prescription?” my quivering voice speaks out. “Is ten minutes okay?” the pharmacy technician asks.

Stage three. My inner voice tells me to be brave. Think of a serene place. My happy place. Take deep soothing breaths. My toolbox is ransacked for more options until I come to grips with the present. The dispensary is too far to hike, so I must drive to pick up my pills. Cranked engine. Foot on pedal. Brake released. My self-talk takes me on a wild ride to the drug store. My trembling legs walk me to the back of the aisles. The friendly face of the tech reassures me. The credit card transaction is signed with a jellylike hand, completing the purchase.

Back in my car, I down the remedy with tepid water from an old bottle sitting in my trash. My panting is steadier, my heart pounding a little less. Within thirty minutes, I am relaxed, able to pursue my day. Ready to reassess my decision to become a Toastmaster. The choice is sound and important.

My bulletproof vest is worn as a badge of honor and survival. Without my garb, I would be a prisoner in my house, hiding in bed. Sick to my stomach. Useless.

The stigma of mental illness must be broken. My vest is worn with pride. I am a survivor. I am the voice of one in every five Americans experiencing the assailant. I am not alone.

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Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Laurie Finkelstein RWISA Author Page