Tag Archives: Anna Leigh Keaton

Seasonal Affective Disorder

The leaves are almost all off the tree, and we’re into the “rainy” season here in the Pacific Northwest. Daylight Savings is a joke, because now I’m ready for bed around 7pm. This time of the year is when I want to hibernate, and it’s a struggle to get up every morning and get things done.

Since I grew up in Alaska, it was always so much worse since we had no sunshine at all for a couple of months. No, not total darkness, but nothing brighter than dusk.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is what they call it, and I’ve suffered from it since I hit puberty. This past year I got on the Vitamin D kick, sure that it would solve all my problems. It did not. I’m still dragging. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as last year? I couldn’t tell you. Getting out and walking does seem to help, though when I come back to home I could easily crawl into my nice warm bed and sleep away the day. I don’t though. I work through it.

I’m not whining, I’m just sharing the fact that this time of the year can be hard. Lack of light, the holidays, the blues. I hope everyone out there has someone they can lean on. For me it’s my wonderful husband who, after 13 years of marriage knows my moods pretty well. He lets me be a little bitchy without calling me on it. He snuggles me more.

My advice to others who are going through this is try to get out. Go for a walk—just remember to bundle up against the weather! And when the weather is too bad, I even drag myself out to the stores, and I’m not a shopper so this isn’t what I consider fun. I go to a coffee shop and people watch. Sit in the food court at the mall and do the same. Isolation is the worst thing. And if it’s very bad, find someone to talk to who understands these issues. Don’t try to do it alone.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving (for my American friends), and that the coming holiday season brings you joy and love.

Anna Leigh

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Reconnecting With What Matters

For seven years, my husband and I worked opposite shifts in life. He worked nights, leaving the house around six in the evening and coming home at seven in the morning. I work the day shift, making sure our daughter got off to school with a healthy lunch, writing during the days, keeping the house and making sure everyone got dinner.

For seven years, this was our life, and it was manageable, but it was a struggle to get any time alone together. His job didn’t really give time off. He didn’t have a normal schedule that gave him set days off. And when we could manage a long weekend away, his body was still on nights, mine on days, so often we still didn’t spend much quality time together.

This past summer he got a new job with a new company. He works a nine-to-five, Monday-Friday now. Weekends off. It took me a while to get accustomed to the new schedule, since I’m the one who has to work around everyone else’s schedule, but it didn’t take long to get back into the hang of it. I have free time now I didn’t have before, and I am taking full advantage of that. From eight-thirty in the morning when he leaves for work until three when the kiddo gets home, the hours are all mine! Of course, you know what I wanted to do that first week? Sleep. Stay in bed all day and not move an inch!

Then, soon, I began to reconnect with the life I used to have. Routine. Ohhh it’s sweet and I missed it. I have six full hours to myself every single day now. Yes, I still have all the household chores that are expected of me, but I have time to read, to write, to sit and stare at the wall if I want to. Wonderful!

Then the biggest change of all…reconnecting with my husband. This one took a little more effort. It’s pretty simple living as roommates with only an hour or so a day to communicate with each other. We love each other, always have, there’s no doubt about that, but to actually have conversations that were deeper than relating what the kiddo’s weekend plans included? Yeah, that was a little weird.

So we started using his weekends to go do things together. Tourists in our own backyard type things. It’s brought us together with fun exploration and gives us time to talk the way we used to, once upon a time when we fell in love. This past weekend was our 13th wedding anniversary and we spent his two days off in Whistler, a place he’d never been, enjoying the chilly, wet weather, snowy hillsides and bright red maple trees. What a lovely time we had, and a great time of reconnecting.

Now, it’s time to reconnect with my writing and get back to work. Too much staring at the walls!

Have a great month, everyone. Find something to reconnect with that you’ve lost that matters.

Anna Leigh

The Right Tools for the Trade

Howdy everyone!

Once again I’m here writing about cooking. It is my favorite pastime right behind reading a really good book.

A few months ago I went in search of the perfect chef’s knife – that I can afford. This is a tough thing, because what I want to do is drop $80 on a professional knife, when I know I don’t need it – it’s for cooking at home, not cooking for an income. So, I bought one at Walmart that looked like the one I really wanted. It was cheap, and you get what you pay for, right? Well, so the search goes on. I also need a good cutting board. I’m picky about my cutting boards, and because I’m picky, I’m not ready to drop too much money until I find the right one. Therefore, I’m stuck using the poly-whatever one I’ve had for ages that’s cut and scarred and bugs me every time I use it. You know, while I’m at it, I would so love a new fry pan.

*sigh*

Well, along comes Gordon Ramsay on BBC with his Ultimate Cookery Course. 100 recipes to stake your life on. I’m hooked. First off, I find him really attractive. He’s my dream man. Cooks great and looks great, and well, gee, lovely accent on top of it!

He says, throughout the 100 tips he also gives, all you need is 3 good knives, one good cutting board and one good fry pan that can go from stovetop to oven. Yes, there are other tools, but he’s talking right to me!

*grin*

So, over the weekend I went to the mall (not my favorite place in the world) with my daughter. She dragged me into Hot Topic, and I dragged her into Kitchen Connection. I walked out a bit poorer, but I got my knife, my cutting board, and my fry pan. Tonight for the first time I got to put them all to use, and I can tell you it’s true, the right tool for the job makes things soooo much easier.

This made me think about the tools I need for writing. It’s not quite as complicated as cooking, but then sometimes it’s even more complicated.

My tools, if you asked me, I would say all I need is my laptop and a power source and I can write. My Thesaurus and Dictionary are helpful, and I always have my Manual of Style close by…but I don’t need them to write.

But then, I also need peace and quiet. Not as substantial a “thing” but necessary for me to create. Then there’s the need for some kind of inspiration, but there’s no telling when or how that will hit, but I need it at some point before I begin writing. I need the support of my writerly friends. Writing can be such a lonely career, having the support of a select few friends who understand the writer’s mind, who know when I need a nudge or need to be left alone, or if I need to be redirected is vital to my wellbeing. I need my family to understand when I don’t feel like cooking, cleaning or even talking. I need them to know that yes, I am ignoring them but I still love them, but Mommy’s working, her office just happens to be in the living room.

Every author needs to know and understand what their individual tools of the trade are, and they need to demand them. It makes the job more fun!

Anna Leigh

The Real Alaska

I don’t have much to say today, other than we were gone nearly two months, and it wasn’t until the last weekend in Alaska that we spent time in the woods, in the Real Alaska.

My family were Pioneers. Not the Gold Rush pioneers, but my dad was still considered a “sourdough” to the locals. He moved to Alaska in 1949, when the Alcan Highway was barely more than a dirt track, and everyone hunted, fished, gardened and berry picked to “put up” enough food for the families for the winter.

The best part of every trip back to Alaska is spending a long weekend in the woods…but we’re more civilized now than when I was growing up and sleeping in tents.

The cabin was built by my brother and his wife on some property owned by her family up the Goodpasture River about 100 miles south of Fairbanks. Only way to reach the cabin is about a 45 minute boat ride from a landing on the Tanana River near Delta Junction. Theirs is the new cabin. I’m sorry to say I didn’t take any pictures of the “old” cabin, built in the early 70’s by my sister-in-law’s grandfather.

So, instead of tents, we spend our nights in cabins heated by fireplaces, but the days are spent outdoors fishing for grayling, chopping wood, having meals cooked over the campfire. The most relaxing weekend of our too-long summer vacation. I don’t think I could ever get tired of being there, and I can’t say how much it means that my lovely sister-in-law and her family shares this beautiful place with the rest of us.

Leanne

Alaska

As happens every few visits to Alaska, this is a wet one. While the Lower 48 is in drought and heat waves, Alaska is a soggy mess. I like rain. Heck, I love the rain. I live in the Pacific Northwest! But all the rain makes it difficult to really enjoy what Alaska has to offer—other than my family of course.

I’m looking forward to my birthday party this weekend, which I’ll share the celebration with one brother-in-law, whose birthday is a few days after mine. The party has turned into a small reunion of sorts, since a lot of family from all over the state is converging on the farm. (My folk’s place was originally a 40-acre homestead, and has been cut up into parcels, but only family lives and builds on those plots of land. We all still say we’re going to the farm if we’re heading to my mom’s or my sister’s place.) And no, we’re not hippies or anything of the sort. This is just kind of the Alaskan way…our way.

My family is huge and scattered all over the state. Brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. It all started in 1949 when, on April 1st—just in case it didn’t work out they could say it was a joke—my dad and his first wife, pregnant with their first child, headed to Alaska on the newly built Alcan highway, leaving their families in Nebraska

The stories of adventure, some of them lost forever because those first pioneers of the family are no longer with us, are countless. Dad loved the land and convinced a lot of his siblings to relocate here, and his mother, too.

Life is undoubtedly easier now than it was more than a half century ago when they lived off the land, hunting and fishing to fill the freezer for the winter, taking what jobs were available. My dad ran a courier service, was a mailman for the US Postal Service, was a bush pilot, and eventually owned a feed and livestock store until people stopped raising their own chickens and pigs for food.

Now, my family careers range from the artistic—one brother is a carver who sells his bone and antler carvings during the summer months to art enthusiasts who can afford his work—to a sister who is an RN and one who is a firefighter. Another brother is a contractor who employs several family members and sometimes hundreds of Alaskans, and another sister who is in her 60’s and spent her life devoted to her children as a stay-at-home army wife and mother. I have brothers who are pilots, fixed wing and helicopter, and a cousin who runs a trucking company and actually drives the Alaska Ice Road.

But I have to say, in my opinion, my most intriguing relative, when it comes to Alaskan history, is one aunt who was born in Fairbanks. Her grandmother was a madam why back when there were a lot of little whore houses around town, catering to men in search of a little company after spending months in the bush, on the rivers, searching for gold. And my sweet aunt, a woman I have adored for as long as I can remember, started smoking when she was in her fifties, because she could, damn it. But the coolest thing about her, the proof that she’s got to be the most Alaskan person in my family, is that my dear sweet aunt (who can’t be 110 lbs soaking wet) was already a grandmother when she ran in the Iditarod sled dog race, just to prove she could do it. And she won the Red Lantern prize—coming in very last but crossing that finish line. She’s in her seventies now and serves up the best biscuits in Alaska in her gorgeous little B&B.

So, you can see why I return every couple of years. My home isn’t here any longer, but a big part of my heart is. I come back to sit and listen to stories. Old stories I’ve heard a hundred times and new ones about the kids and grandkids of my siblings as we all get older and the next generation grows.

Sitting around a camp fire, out on the old Denali Highway in a spot my family has gone to since long before me, the baby of the family, was born, watching my sister’s grandkids play in the mud—because it rained there too—we had to laugh. When the family first came to that little patch of land, once flattened out by a road crew building that rutted, gravelly highway that we pray never gets paved, we’re now the older generation. I remember fishing in that stream with my uncles and dad—so old to me back then—teaching me how to cast my little fishing rod. We’re that generation now, watching the little ones grow, teaching them to fish, to be Alaskans.

Anna Leigh

Impatience

Impatience – I suffer from this, and I readily admit it. I especially suffer from it when I think someone is just being dumb. I have had this issue since I was a child. My mother was called in to talk to my second grade teacher way back when, and Mrs. Barkley told my mom that when asked why I didn’t like playing with other kids, I responded by telling her it was because they were stupid.

I’ve always been a loner, obviously, even back then. The people in my head were always way more interesting than real human beings. (I’m a writer, not schizophrenic, please remember that.) I always had problems making, or at least keeping, friends as a kid. They were immature, talked about dumb stuff, acted like kids.

So, okay, as background, I was the baby of the family, 10 years behind my youngest sibling. Of course kids my age were immature; I grew up and hung out with adults.

My impatience has been rearing its ugly little (or not so little) head lately. I know it’s something I must work on and have dealt with all my adult life. As an almost 40 year old, I can’t go around telling people they’re being stupid. Well, I suppose I could, but I’m sure it would not accomplish what I wish it to accomplish, and I might get slugged…or worse.

I get annoyed easily. From the people in my house trying to carry on a conversation with me while I’m staring at my computer screen and typing. Come on. If the fingers are moving, the nails are tap, tap, tapping on the keys in a fairly quick manner, I’m not listening to you! I’ve lived with these same people for 13 years, and they still haven’t figured that out. Funny thing is, if I really don’t stop to listen, they get impatient with me. I find this funny, because it’s like turning the table, right? How often does the hubby and teen “not hear” what Mom has to say?

In restaurants, I get annoyed when I’m ignored by the wait staff. (I think most people are this way, though) It happened just yesterday. I must say the waitress redeemed herself by the end of the meal, but, when the two waitresses are literally around the corner from where I’m standing by the “Please let us seat you” sign, and they’re laughing and talking about their kids, I got annoyed, impatient. I walked right around that corner (after standing there a full 3 minutes and listening to them yammer on) and said, “Would you like to seat us?” Snarky and rude sounding, but I don’t usually get loud with strangers. That fear of being slugged, I think, which comes from having big brothers who didn’t like my smart mouth as a kid.

I’m a Facebook addict. I love reading posts, especially from family and friends. In fact, I live a couple thousand miles from my family, and my mom calls me to find out what’s going on with the family, and she lives in the same town they do! (She refuses to use a computer) My impatience with FB? People posting political and religious views. Not just views, because everyone has a right to post what they think, but the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality. And if you disagree with them, publicly, by hitting the Reply button, you are a horrible person. I am a very open-minded person, so strong opinions usually annoy me. And, you will never, ever find a political or religious post on my Facebook status update, because I am very private about that stuff. Is it wrong that I wish every single person I knew in real life and on FB was as private as I am?

My goal in life is not to be impatient. To just “roll” with it. On the other hand, keeping it all inside will lead to a heart attack, right? *grin*

Have a great week, everyone… I’m going to try to! *grin*

Anna Leigh

Happy Mom

Something really cool happened this past week, and I can’t even tell my brat how much it pleased me, because she’s a teenager.

I wrote about reading the Robyn Carr series a little while ago, and I’m on book 16 (of 19) now. A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if she could read one. She has seen me reading them for the past five months and got curious.

She’s pretty picky, specific and eclectic about what she likes to read. She loves Stephen King, and will re-read his books. She reads any Chicken Soup for the Soul book she can get her hands on. She hasn’t ever really been into YA books, except for a trilogy about a girl who sees ghosts. She never liked Harry Potter or the sparkling vampires; she’d rather read an Anne Rice vampire book.

Anyway, we love the same books we listen to on CD when we travel…I pick up Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and one of our favorites is a Michael Crichton. She’s never shown any interest in romance, though. If we listen to one in the car, it has to have some action, suspense, death and/or destruction, for her to enjoy it. (The first short story she wrote in 1st grade was about a happy little bunny that got eaten by a hawk.) She’s a little darker than I am.

So, to my utter joy, she asks to read a romance that I love. So, I gave her book 1 in the series.

She’s always been ahead of her class when it comes to reading. She was a late bloomer, and I feared she had a “problem” when by the middle of 1st grade she couldn’t string a sentence together. See Jane run wasn’t working. Sometime over the summer between 1st and 2nd grade, something happened. She started reading. She wanted books and more books. She jumped into reading 4th and 5th grade level, then got bored in school. By 6th grade she got into my Stephen King books, and there’s been no looking back.

When she started reading Virgin River, it was really fun talking with her about the characters. She got sucked in just as fast as I did.

She is coming up to the end of her freshman year in high school, and she wants to go into Honors English next year. There are 70 kids fighting for 30 slots. She has to do a couple projects.

This was the biggest surprise… One of her projects, she has to make these baseball type cards for a book. The front has pictures of characters, setting, and things in the book, and the back little 75 word blurbs about the person or whatever. She picked Virgin River to do this project on.

It’s great. We now have something to share. I mean, we’ve always been close, but she is a teenager, and they run real hot and cold! I was planning to hand the series over to my mother when I was done, but the kiddo has forbidden that…she needs to read them first.

I’m a happy mom.

Anna Leigh

Super Hero Week

This week has been Super Hero week in our house. With the release of The Avengers, which both hubby and I wanted to see, we of course had to watch the movie lead-ups to it we had missed.

My personal favorite was Iron Man and Iron Man 2, probably because of Robert Downy Jr. and no other reason. I love the smart-ass personality he plays so well and that reminds me of a couple of my brothers who are the king of smartass. Sorry guys! *grin*

The Hulk was my least favorite, and I think I gave up on all the super heroes after that one was released because I just didn’t care for it. Hubby, though, insisted we watch the other two, Captain America and Thor, before seeing the new release.

I must say I quite enjoyed them—or maybe I’m just completely in love with our new subscription to Netflix. Either way, it’s been a fun week and a nice break from the norm of evening television.

As for The Avengers, even though 2.5 hours in theater seats is rather uncomfortable on my poor back, the three of us (hubby, daughter and myself) all really enjoyed it. There’s some good comedy, lots of action and exploding things that makes the hubby happy, and I think the teenager just liked all the hot guys. Actually, part way through, I found myself thinking that the super heroes are getting old. Iron Man has a little gray at his temples, and Bruce Banner did too. I don’t mind that at all; it was nice having heroes my age! They’re still sexy as hell. (Don’t tell hubby I said that.) *grin*

I was happy that we watched all the movie lead-ins so that I had the back stories to go with everything that happened. Even though my daughter had only seen Iron Man, she said she didn’t feel like she missed anything by not having seen the others.

Next week we look forward to seeing Dark Shadows. The kiddo demands to go see that one because she’s completely and totally in love with Johnny Depp.

Anna Leigh

Cooking and Reading

I’ve been doing a lot of both of these the last few weeks. Both relax me and give me time to regroup and think.

After finishing a book that had been contracted on proposal, I needed a little time to unwind before I started the next one, also under proposal contract, so what do I do? I spend a couple of days neck deep dealing with the Canadian government’s website and elbow-deep in paperwork. Hahaha, right? Well, when you’re not a citizen of the country you live in, these things come up and you have to take care of them. This time it’s the once-every-five-year immigration card renewal process. They want to know every time I’ve been out of the country in the last five years. I will not even get into that…

Anyway, that relaxation technique did not work one little bit, so I took another week off of writing, because though I’m not a plotter by any means, I’m not a total pantser either. I have to at least have an idea who my characters are and where they’re going (besides to a happily ever after) before I can start writing. I need to have solid in my brain the beginning, middle and end before I can start. My best way to think is lying in bed, staring at nothing, and letting my mind float. Well, when you have a husband who works stupid hours and snores rather loudly while in bed, that doesn’t really happen, except the mind floating to wondering just how long it takes to smother someone with a pillow…and I don’t writer murder mysteries.

So, the next best thing, what I used to do, is cook. In the last two weeks I’ve made big batches of soup, stews, chilis, mostly because they’re very easy, I love soup, and they take zero thinking. The other thing I’ve been doing lately, which is a very big treat for me, is actually reading! Because of my day job as an editor, I don’t have much time for reading for pleasure, but since things have been slow at work, I started reading again.

I have to boast about these books. It’s been so long since I found a series to totally and completely fall in love with, but I have. The Virgin River series by Robyn Carr. I highly recommend to anyone who loves good down-home type romance with just a little adventure. Robyn Carr is now on my favorites list of authors. I’m on book 16 (of 20) and I’m sure I’m going to cry when I finish! Her characters are real, the setting gorgeous, the romance heart-wrenching.

So finally, my brain is kicking in and I’m staring the next book I need to write, which is a very good thing because the due date is looming. The family is pretty happy with all the home-cooked meals too, I must say. Haven’t had a hotdog in weeks! *grin*

Here’s a little recipe I did the other night that had them begging for more. Enjoy!

Anna Leigh Keaton

Herbed potato wedges

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced and mashed against the cutting board with the flat of a knife
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed fine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Cut each half, lengthwise, into 4 equally sized wedges. Add the potato wedges to a large mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Toss meticulously to coat the potatoes evenly.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Place the potato wedges, skin side down, on the foil. Be sure to space evenly, so they cook uniformly. Bake for 35 minutes, or until well browned, crusty edged, and tender. Serve immediately.

Old Movies

I’ve been on an Old Movie kick the last few weeks. This happens to me once in a while, usually during re-run season, which has started already, much to my dismay!

Yes, I’m addicted to my television. I spend as much time watching it as I do writing—probably even more. I’ve heard a lot of writers say this is a bad thing, that television sucks your creativity, there are much better uses of time, but I strongly disagree. The mindlessness of sitcoms, made for television movies, crime dramas, to me, is all fodder for creating.

But I digress. The last couple of weeks has been a Turner Classic Movie marathon for me. Well, I’ve been DVR’ing them watching them alone or with my daughter, who I’m very pleased to report loves the old movies too.

I grew up with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas in my living room. My dad was a huge fan of both, and as far as I can remember, besides The Wonderful World of Disney and 60 Minutes every Sunday night, and Dallas on Fridays, westerns were all we watched.

First naked butt I ever saw on a movie was Kirk Douglas jumping out of a rain barrel bath—yes, it was a big thing, I think I was only about eleven years old! Not so big of a deal this day and age; my daughter saw more than that by that age, I’m sure, but I’m a good Catholic girl from Alaska. We didn’t see naked man butts on network television, which was all we had. No cable.

We got our first color television when I was nine or ten, and my dad got our first VCR soon after that. He rented movies on a regular basis, and it was always the old westerns he’d loved from his younger days. We also watched Lawrence Welk on Sunday afternoons—can’t forget that! I’m wondering if we even watched television on any other day than Sunday. Oh, and Falcon Crest, which was on the same night as Dallas, I think, or maybe the next night. My mom was hooked on that one. I find it funny, because my parents thought soaps were a horrible thing, and they watched the most popular ones ever! *grin*

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing, getting sick of re-run this or re-run that, and stumbled across North To Alaska. It was a John Wayne I’d never seen…which is weird, since I am from Alaska and my dad was such a huge fan. It was a Saturday afternoon, and my daughter was watching it with me, but she had to go somewhere halfway through, and asked me to record it for her. Hmm, that was interesting. Never though she’d get into John Wayne. I mean, she listens to music that makes me want to rip my ears off. It was a John Wayne marathon going on, so I recorded a few others. Then we got into Cary Grant, who is my all time favorite actor ever, and recorded everything they were playing with him in it. This past week was Doris Day. So Saturdays the last few weeks have been devoted to my daughter and I watching old movies.

The other night I watched one by myself before bed called Green Mansions with Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, and it dawned on me why watching moves that predate the ‘60s really does something for me spiritually. First, watching anything with John Wayne or Kirk Douglas brings back good memories of my childhood, and these were the first movies I was ever exposed to. We were poor and going to the movie theater, ever, was out of the question. I think I saw 2 movies in the theater as a kid, both with my mom, but I couldn’t tell you now what they were. I do remember my brothers being forced to take me to see Sleeping Beauty, and I remember they took turns sitting in the theater with me while they swapped out going to some other movie they actually wanted to see. I think they were being punished or something. *grin*

Again, I digress. The second reason I am so fond of old movies is the imagery. Though Green Mansions was shot in color, we’ve been watching a ton of black and white movies, but it never seems to matter. Even the B&W have more backdrop than most modern movies. I’m not knocking modern movies by any means, I love movies of all kinds. But those long shots of the Badlands, or the dark sparkle of a magical wonderland in the rain forest, or the New York city street in the forties with men and women dressed in their Sunday best—or what would have been considered Sunday best where I grew up. There really is a sense of wonder in the older movies, and I find myself able to just let the magic happen, involve me and evoke more emotion than most modern movies. They are relaxing and rejuvenating to watch, in my opinion.

Also, what I find intriguing, is the sense of passion the romantic movies portray when all we see on screen is one rather lame kiss. That’s writing and acting at its best! And now that I know my daughter likes them, too, it’s one more thing I can share with her.

Spring is here in the Lower Mainland, and the flowers are in full bloom. Walks in the cool evenings are back on my to-do list, and daughter and I have been enjoying them, even if I must take a shot of allergy nose spray before I can leave my house. *grin*

Anna Leigh