Category Archives: When Living Interferes With Writing

Update and True Life Story

Update and True Life Story

Update

If you were wondering this morning as you dressed and ate your breakfast, “Huh, I wonder how the edits on Book Six are going for Christine?” – then I have read your mind and I am here to give you an update.

Work is going slow but sure, and I’ve got my hands full and my mind working away on…The Cottage.

No, that isn’t a book title. Sorry. And no, I haven’t been editing. Three things are filling my days: work on The Cottage rehab, homeschooling Em, and preparing for the Homes Tour on October 15th.

Yes, you too can see the house I call home, along with five others, all for the low price of $15!

But I digress. Mainly I’m running around like some crazed chicken, missing that proverbial head, as I struggle to get everything done.

So the update is that there is no progress on the edits. I hope to give you better news soon. Give me three weeks and I’ll see if I can’t manage to work editing back into the mix.

Meanwhile, all of these police shootings brought to mind a parallel story, and a true one at that, which I will now share with you.

A True Life Story

I left home at the age of sixteen. To be more exact, I ran away.

I had screwed up in school, been caught cheating, and my dad was beside himself and pissed. He told me I would be going back to my mom’s in Arizona and repeating my senior year of high school there in public school.

That wasn’t what made me run away, it was the phone call that night, and his remarks directly after, that sent me fleeing.

My mother had called, reminding him that they had agreed to never change custody during times where it might provide an escape for me from a problem. He got off the phone and instead of telling me this (he was pissed and frustrated) he said, “Well your mom doesn’t want you. So I guess I’m going to have you declared incorrigible, made a ward of the court, and send you to a juvenile facility.”

Just writing this makes me want to laugh. How did I ever believe him when he said this?

Two reasons.

A “sort of” friend had had this happen to her. I didn’t know the circumstances of what she had done, but her mother did get her locked up in a juvenile facility. And her mother knew my father, of course, he knew the story even better. I reasoned that if it could happen to this girl, it could happen to me.

And the second reason was rather simplistic – to my knowledge, my dad had never lied to me. He had never told me that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or even God (my dad is an atheist) – was real. He had also stated on more than a number of occasions that he would always tell me the truth.

I believed him. As far as I was concerned, he was going to have me locked up just like my “sort of” friend had been locked up. And the next day, before he left work, he told me to start packing. I did. I grabbed what I could carry and I left home.

We lived in Pacifica at the time, and I headed for San Francisco, where a friend was living in some residence hotels. These places were rented out by the week or month, each floor had several shared bathrooms, and it was some rather simple, basic living. A hot plate, maybe a refrigerator if you were lucky, and maybe a sink in your room to do your dishes in. They also had a restriction, no one under the age of 18, but my friend was 21 and he was determined to help.

“Just meet me in the city, we will figure it out.” He promised.

There I sat on a bus, my bags clutched close beside me, heading through the Tenderloin. The area was riddled with crime, violence, shootings and drugs. Each time I rode through it I was tense and scared. It was a bad, bad area at the time.

The bus stopped near a corner store and passengers disembarked and others came in the front, paying the fare and moving deeper into the bus. I was in a single seat, some of the busses had them at the time, and the bus was relatively full. It was a bright sunny day in April 1987.

The bus closed its doors and inched forward to the crosswalk, but the light was red. At that moment, a convertible sports car screeched to a halt beside the bus, immediately to my left, and I saw the passenger jump out, a gun in his hand. He was white, dressed in a shirt and blue jeans. He made no attempt to hide it and I watched as he ran in front of the bus. The light had turned green and the bus had begun to move forward. It just as quickly lurched to a stop when the driver saw the man run in front.

What sent me into a panic was what happened next. The bus driver actually opened the front doors. I’m sure it was an automatic response, one that he quickly rectified as the man with the gun continued past the bus and towards a man standing near a pillar at the corner market. He reached the man, a black man, slammed him against the pillar and placed the gun against his head.

Here I was, not quite seventeen years old, running away from home, and convinced this was a drug deal gone bad and that once the guy with the gun finished off this poor s.o.b. he was going to come for any witnesses, i.e. all the people on the bus.

It turned out he was an undercover cop. As the bus pulled away I could see his partner racing over, the car still running and parked in the middle of the street, and silver handcuffs flashing in the sun.

 

So there you go. A real life story that you probably never heard me tell before. Got one for me?

A Trip to the Capitol

A Trip to the Capitol

Yesterday I received a Facebook message from one of the big movers and shakers of Show-Me Cannabis. He wrote…”I thought you might be interested in this bill, your book might be an excellent testimony for the committee to consider.” And he attached the following link: http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB525

I asked him for some additional info, because honestly, all that is political kind of flies past me. Laws, bills, political machinations…so not me. Heck, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t even know where the Capitol was or who my representative is.

He explained that I could testify as a witness against HB525, which would put drug courts in every circuit court division in the state of Missouri.

I said “sure” and the next thing I knew I was driving to Jefferson City at 6:30 this morning…over two hours in each direction. All to discuss why drug courts are a bad thing…

Now this is a double-edged sword as I see it. No drug court? That might mean a ticket straight to jail or prison, depending on the offense. But drug courts SUCK. I could sit here all day and tell you how they suck, but instead, I will cut and paste the testimony I ended up giving today…

My name is Christine Shuck and I am here to testify in regards to House Bill 525, in regards to: “Drug courts [may] shall be established by [any] every circuit court pursuant 2 to sections 478.001 to 478.006 to provide an alternative for the judicial system to dispose of 3 cases which stem from drug use.”

I am a writer, teacher, and homeschool mom.

In 2011, I published the book, The War on Drugs, An Old Wives Tale, which chronicled my husband’s and my experiences after we were caught growing marijuana in November 2008. We faced a possibility of 15 years or more in prison, and ultimately my husband was offered the opportunity to avoid prison by participating in a drug court program in Cass County.

I took extensive notes through the length of our experiences with the Cass County Drug Court program. I made this decision early on, after too many jaw-dropping experiences to count, in which our freedoms were violated in a number of different ways.

I chronicled them all in this book, and interspersed our personal experiences of our 511 days in the Cass County Drug Court system with the history of marijuana, drug courts and how the war on drugs began.

Despite having avoided up to 15 years of incarceration, and my husband having completed the drug diversion program successfully (I was never charged in the case), I am here today to discuss why drug courts are not the answer and perhaps offer another, more humanitarian alternative…

  • The opportunity for corruption and abuse was rampant – Drug courts have unprecedented levels of control over the participants. This has never been more evident than through these three examples:
    • Once a participant has moved from the first level into the second level of the program (during the first they are not allowed to work, thereby incurring significant financial hardship), he is expected to obtain full-time work immediately, something denied the participant during the first stage of the program. But he is also given the stipulation that any employer must be, according to the drug court officials, informed of the participant’s history and current status in the drug court program. This opens the door for corruption and abuse on the employer’s side of things – “do what I say, work these extra hours, or I’ll fire you and you’ll go to jail.” Self-employment is actively discouraged. We were told on a number of occasions that unless we could provide actual paycheck stubs than none of our income would be considered. Eventually my husband simply gave up on trying to start his martial arts business and enrolled in school full-time. We ended up having to declare full Chapter 7 bankruptcy by the end of the program, something we would never have considered before.
    • Prior to my husband’s participation in the drug court program a counselor employed by the drug court program was engaging in illicit drug use and intimate relations with other drug court participants. This was according to the former assistant DA, who had moved into private practice and was our attorney during the proceedings. He went on to detail how this individual had used her position to coerce the clean participants in the drug court program to submit urine samples for the dirty ones through threats and intimidation.
    • During my husband’s participation in the program, another attendee was tested using an uncalibrated breathalyzer and received a false positive, that maintained the same reading four hours later (an impossibility since he was in jail and not imbibing alcohol). Although he insisted on a blood test, he was kept in jail for a full two weeks, abused verbally by the judge and drug court staff, called a liar, lost his job, and released only after his test came back negative two weeks later.
    • Psychological manipulation and verbal abuse – My husband endured outright lies from the staff throughout his experiences, but none hits home more than when they decided to conduct a psychological experiment on him, telling him he would be allowed to ‘level up’ from the 1st to the 2nd He applied for jobs, had interviews scheduled, and then when the day came, they did not go through with their false promises. According to several of the counselors, the director of the program was convinced that my husband was “narcissistic and had a God complex.” The goal in not ‘up-leveling’ him was to watch him lose control and bring him to the breaking point. He didn’t, and a full month later he was allowed to up-level. In addition to this, early in his participation in the drug court program he was told he was no better than a child rapist by Judge Jacqueline Cook. A child rapist. Over and over, he would receive the same message – you are a criminal, you are worthless, you don’t deserve to be walking free. These are not messages that reform, or encourage, they simply remind the participant that he is worth nothing and has zero control over his own life.
  • One size does not fit all – Drug courts include everyone from the occasional marijuana user to those heavily addicted to hard, dangerous drugs such as heroine, methamphetamines and cocaine. This one size fits all approach does not work. Forcing an occasional marijuana smoker to “admit [he] is a helpless, and hopeless addict” simply means you are forcing them to lie. The alternative? If he didn’t admit he was an addict, he would have been thrown out of the program and sent to prison immediately. So for 511 days, my husband lied. EVERY DAY.
  • It is not serving its specified purpose – Drug court states that it is not intended to be a form of punishment, but that of rehabilitation. However, participants are treated like criminals, not patients. And if they object they are told that they should be thankful they are not in prison. Having law enforcement personnel, as well as former addicts in positions of power has caused these programs to veer from rehabilitation into threats of incarceration, retaliation, and retribution. From my husband’s drug court graduation application, “Always the threat of what will happen if we step out of line looms over us.”

In summary, drug courts simply do not work as envisioned. For those hopelessly lost to addiction, there is some level, tiny as it might be, of rehabilitation. For most, it is simply a degrading, dehumanizing experience that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

So, what can we do instead of drug court?

Decriminalize it.

Please note that I am not at this time suggesting we legalize it. I’m suggesting that we remove the punitive aspect of it. If we truly want to make a difference in people’s lives, we will offer them the alternative of true rehabilitation. Not rehabilitation with the threat of incarceration.

If we continue to treat drug use and abuse by ostracizing, demeaning, and attempting to control every aspect of a drug user’s life – we will continue to fail.

For those who are true addicts, the drug court model has only limited benefit. If we, however, include an addict within a nurturing society, allow them understanding and patience and surround them with examples of functional habits, positive role models, and more – we can encourage them to change their lives. Not all drugs are the same, not all users are the same.

The reality is, we cannot punish drugs out of a person’s body. Instead, we need to offer support, guidance and caring. Tough love, derogatory environments, and threats of incarceration do not help.

So I finish with this testimony and every representative on the committee (some eight or so in the room at the time) were just staring at me. Apparently I had shocked the hell out of them. The chairman of the committee said, after a moment’s pause, “So, you are suggesting we decriminalize ALL drugs?”

I should have quoted the article here on Drug Decriminalization in Portugal which has seen a reduction in drug addiction by around 50%, but honestly, i was a little rattled by the long drive, little sleep, and basically the whole experience. So I just smiled and said, “Yes.”

And that was the end of that.

Eapen commented later that I was probably part of a very small handful who had ever had the audacity of suggesting such a thing in those hallowed halls (my words not his). He also said that I certainly had their full attention.

My point in being there was, it is one thing to tout drug courts as this great alternative to incarceration, when the reality is that drug courts are not such a large step away from jails and prisons. I’ve explained it in length above, but there you go.

I kill mice with flyswatters…do battle with libraries over class cancellations…and (not quite) fearlessly give testimony before legislators.

I’m feeling mighty…

If you haven’t read my book The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale – you really should. Click on the link to purchase it on Amazon in paperback or Kindle formats.

Just the facts…

Just the facts…

I was musing over a few “facts” recently. I won’t wax long and poetic today, I’ve got a foundation to work on and then I’m going out for drinks tonight. Here they are…

Fact: I Cannot Stop Buying Books

It’s a compulsion. And if I am faced with the author, it is absolutely impossible for me to say “no” to them. Unfortunately, other authors don’t seem to experience this same compulsion.

This is quite possibly the reason I spent $65 on books today and only sold $30 worth of my own. Eventually I will run out of space…

Then I’ll have to build more bookshelves!

Fact: I No Longer Read as Much as I Would Like

With all of these balls I keep juggling in the air, I’ve got almost zero time to write much less read. This is a problem. I LOVE books (see above) and the thought of not being able to read them all makes me quite sad. Somehow I need to find time to read more…seriously.

Fact: Writing Books is a Lot Like Living in an Old House

It’s a labor of love. It takes hard work and dedication, and you may never see any profit from it.

Today, at the local coffee club, someone came up and asked, “Selling lots of books?”

I looked down at the two $5 bills in front of me, testament of the two organizing books I had sold by that point. “Not yet…perhaps I need to write more.”

They laughed, but I was serious. Eventually I will wear people down through sheer volume and genre diversity.

The Price of “Free”

The Price of “Free”

Years ago, my dad taught me about TANSTAAFL. Never heard it before? It stands for There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

“Free” always comes with a price.

Most of the time, that’s not a bad thing. We got a crap load of free hive bodies and frames the day after Thanksgiving. It will take probably 40 hours of scraping, cleaning, melting the wax, straining the wax, re-melting it, straining again, and eventually painting everything in white to get the hives ready to use. We’re up to it, the ‘price’ was right.

Two years ago, I read about how if you get an energy audit and some weatherization, then the utility companies will give you a credit on your utility bills. I was so damned excited at the thought.

One small problem, it would be about $500 for the energy audit, plus possible thousands for the weatherization. After all that, I sure as hell hope they would give us a credit!

My husband was unemployed, unemployment had almost ran out, and we were facing bankruptcy as I struggled to continue to pay the mortgage. It was tough, real tough. Then I read about how families who were below a certain income level (read, dirt poor) could qualify for free weatherization. I jumped on it. A few months later and we were approved, my heart sank with the words that came next, “They are a little backed up right now, it will be at least a year.”

I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing that we continued to qualify each quarter for the services. That meant we were dirt poor, along with the bankruptcy that went through just over 15 months ago, and after re-qualifying over and over, past the ‘year’ I was frustrated as hell. It isn’t easy to swallow your pride and submit to such intrusive questions and provide details of just how poor you really are over and over, but I did it.

And a month ago, all of that paid off. Or did it?

It turns out we had a furnace that was leaking dangerous, toxic levels of CO2 into our home. It was probably a good reason for the massive number of headaches I experienced each winter, especially when the temps dropped precipitously. They replaced our furnace, blew in more insulation in our attic, and even replaced an old window in our master bathroom that would have a solid layer of ice on the inside every winter, all winter.

And for a month, things have been much better. The master bathroom isn’t as chilly as it once was and the furnace has worked like a dream. Until this past Saturday…

At 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, I was up and awake, typing away at my computer when I smelled this burning smell. It was followed by a sound reminiscent of the TARDIS in Doctor Who. With the door to my office closed, I wasn’t sure if it was Dave snoring (sorry, honey) or what. But the burning smell drove me to open the door and when I did, I could then feel the floor shaking from the regular whumping sound of a furnace in distress.

I shook Dave awake and we figured out how to shut the thing down. Afterwards, I called a phone number on the venting. But that turned out to be the installers of the original furnace who asked me what the brand was that had been installed. When I told them, the man said, “Ma’am, I’ve very sorry, but I’m sure it wasn’t us that installed your furnace. We would never install that brand.”

And with that, all I could think was, “Oh, shit. Here is the price of free.”

So it’s now Monday morning. We have one space heater and it’s doing a pretty darn good job. Our temps on Saturday morning were in the mid-60’s when we turned off the furnace and currently it is 61 degrees inside our house. Which isn’t bad, not at all. This morning will be filled with panicked calls to the community action agency who paid for this gem of a furnace, and it is covered under warranty for two years. I imagine we will be replacing the damned thing in about that time, so I’d best start saving up.

Update: After close to a billion frenzied calls and finally hearing back (they had been given the wrong number and were calling someone with a 216 area code and getting no answer) they finally came by at about 3pm. He checked the amp draw, and a host of other things, and concluded that the furnace filter had gotten too close to the motor, impeding its movement, thus the burning smell and sound of a TARDIS in distress. They installed a filter rail, and that will make it easier to change the filter, keep it in its place, and it started up again like a dream.

Here I am, in Crown Center waiting while the princess takes an acting class and realizing, to my chagrin, that the house will be boiling at 75 degrees by the time I return. We kept turning up the temperature so that the heater would kick in and they could check that there was heat and no more problems. I left in such a hurry that I forgot to turn it back down!

Know When to Walk Away

Know When to Walk Away

You got to know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away

Know when to run

Oh shit…I’m quoting country western songs. That’s never a good sign.

It’s 6:30, I’ve been up and at ’em for over an hour, and written nothing (nada, nyet, ZILCH) in War’s End. I tried. I really did. I will admit to delaying tactics as I fiddled with a timeline template that just didn’t work for me (I ended up deleting it). But after that, I tried to write in “To Each A Trade” chapter and just looked at it and shook my head. I need to re-write the whole damn beginning. I had written the beginning of the chapter only, but a while back, before Book One was finalized. Dates and years and ages have all changed, and what I had just doesn’t work anymore.

Life and living have me distracted and writing just isn’t going to happen this morning. Maybe later, maybe not at all.

Craptastic

Craptastic

I…am…a…turd-pie.

At least, that’s how I feel.

God, I hate pissing people off, offending them, or whatever. I also don’t like getting told off, even if I have, somewhat, deserved it. It makes me feel about three feet high and I just want to take my toys and go cry in a corner.

A post on HA went south in the worst way, and I doubt my follow-up apology post cut it. I did the best I could, but I really felt misunderstood and misconstrued.

Worse, it has consumed my afternoon and, knowing me, will stay with me for a while – a few days at the very least. I came home just after 1pm to find the two emails – one frosty, one rather angry, and I couldn’t get onto any of my websites for nearly two hours because some damned server was down.

By the time it came up I was ready to abase myself, prostrate on the floor and apologize – until I read, then re-read the post. Is it wrong of me to say I that I think I was misconstrued? That perhaps this reaction was not just in response to today’s post, but perhaps also has to do with my Herding Cats post from a few days past? Perhaps a few feathers were ruffled, someone was feeling under attack already (or things were a bit too accurate for their taste) and then today’s post put it over the top?

Or am I just being a hormonal bitch?

Hey, either way, it could happen. I rule out nothing.

But I hate conflict, and this has put a significant damper on my afternoon, affected my productivity completely, consumed my thoughts and now I just really want a margarita. (This from someone who gets tipsy maybe once every three months or more)

How can I turn this around? How can I use this huge amount of stress in a productive way?

p.s. And will someone besides a spammer please read this damned blog – I’m so f-ing sick of spammers. I will NEVER post your misspelled, Gingrish -laden monstrosities with links to penis enlargements, French clothing, or hot horny women here. Go find someone else!

p.p.s. I’m turning it around, slowly but surely. I opened up War’s End Book 2 and began writing in the I Can’t Forget chapter. Go me?

Urfff…

Urfff…

Bad headache.

Also, 4am seems to be the new 5am. Two days in a row now, I have woken up at 4am, unable to sleep any longer.

I’m concerned about the carbon monoxide levels in the house. After yesterday’s energy audit, and the one reading of 2,580 parts per million (a lethal dose if I hung around in the basement for an hour) and I can’t help but be concerned. Waking up with another headache (the 4th one in the last five days) does not help matters.

How long does it take to disperse?

How do I get it out of my house?

I’ve got carbon monoxide detectors on the shopping list for today, but right now I can’t sleep and my head is splitting. What a great start to the day!

Two Thoughts

Two Thoughts

Two thoughts, Christine? That’s all? Just two thoughts this morning?

Shut up, you!

So I have just two quick thoughts to share and then I’m off to write, then once E wakes up, fix breakfast, tidy, vacuum, go to Science City, and so much more…

 

Energy Level – Activities

I have been hitting the activities with Emily hard and heavy lately. Yesterday it was story time, well child checkup and then a couple of hours at the Overland Park Arboretum. I distinctly remember being exhausted when I was younger. Falling asleep at the drop of a hat, just…tired.

Nowadays? I do three times as much and still seem ready for more. I mean, sure, there are some days when I do nothing, just rest and recuperate. But most days sees me up by 6 am at the latest (usually 5-5:30) and going strong until 9pm. Multiple activities, work, cleaning, kid wrangling, you name it.

So…what changed?

I would assume it would be reversed. After all, at 41, I don’t exactly have the label of youth on my side.

I think there is a lot to be said for the Happiness Factor. When you are stuck in a job that you hate, or a relationship that sucks, or are a single parent struggling to find time for everything – you suffer. My eldest, Danielle, noted that she couldn’t walk three feet or more inside my house without seeing some project I have done. Cross-stitch, handmade items to decorate the house, writing projects – you name it, it is here.

I think my ability to get things done is directly related to my happiness and satisfaction levels.

Breaking the Rules

I woke up this morning thinking of writing. But not in fiction…oh no…I was thinking of my blog posts. So, depending on how much time the Princess gives me before she wakes, I’m going to write on blog posts for next week. I made up the original rules, and now I get to break them. They are my rules, after all, and they are meant to help the writing process. So…if I’m writing…it’s a good thing, whatever shape that writing might take.

Which reminds me…I really need to work on the family newsletter and Emily’s first “All About Me” book (I’m planning on sending one out annually to immediate family).

Ah Crap, No Distractions, No!

Ah Crap, No Distractions, No!

Okay, it’s 7am and I’m walking away from War’s End for the week. Well, at least until I complete my week’s posts for The Homeschool Advocate and The Deadly Nightshade.

I stopped writing at 22,612 total word count to date on the manuscript and went into the kitchen for some coffee, a bite of breakfast and to share my dream from last night with Dave.

Then I noticed the headline on his computer. Looks like the Feds are ramping up for an all-out war on California’s big cash crop – marijuana. This brought to mind my manuscript for The War On Drugs: An Old Wives Tale, which has been sitting at just over 67,000 words for a while now. Mostly it is a daily journal and notes kept over a period of about 16 months.

Now, 60k word count is nothing to sneeze at, but I still have at least 1/3 of the book to write, and all of the daily journals to reduce or eradicate. My first thought, when I began the manuscript, was to have a way to show the absolute ridiculous, convoluted expectations and statements that are issued by drug court officials. So that the public could see the crazy crap they deal out on a daily basis. And with it, the lack of respect, the degradation and actual lying that drug courts compel you to do, in order to get through the system “successfully.”

In order to make this an effective book, however, I need to pull away from the journals. To consolidate them down to tiny pieces of the whole, and bring the focus back to the war on drugs, why incarceration and drug courts do not work, and why legalization is our only course of action.

I would need to do serious research to make this happen. And where and when am I going to find time for that?

And did I mention that I’m feeling guilty over still not finishing a quilt I promised to Emily almost three years ago? Yeah…the kid is FIVE and she’s asked me at least twice, once a year ago, when she was going to get the quilt. Well sweetie, as soon as Mama gets her poop in a pile. Yeah…any day now.

Dave just sent me this quote by Mahatma Ghandi:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I love it. It makes me think of the Wall Street protesters. I hope I can find a way to incorporate it into An Old Wives Tale.

My Beautiful Clean House

My Beautiful Clean House

For weeks it has been bothering me. I would get it somewhat clean, but then one of the rooms (usually my bedroom or my office) was still an absolute wreck. It was such a joy to walk into my office this morning at 5:20 (yes, I’m an early bird, you should know that by now) and have SPACE to walk and a clean desk to sit down at.

SO…NICE…

I spent all of yesterday working on the house, which included moving furniture, scrubbing floors and much, much more.

I can always count on throwing a party as great incentive to get cleaned up. Even if it is a kids birthday party.

So I didn’t write a blessed word yesterday, except for here on this blog. So far this morning I’ve written one post for TDN. Just nine more posts (4 for TDN, 5 for HA) to go and then I can focus on CLR or War’s End.