Monday, July 28, 2008

My Book Proposal and Creative Visualization

After surveying friends and writers that I trust, I've decided that I'm going to go the traditional publishing route: find an agent who will then shop it around to publishers. In marketing speak: I will focus on my "core competency" and, while I'm writing, I will delegate the rest to those with that particular expertise. Rather than spend my "spoons" and money on printing and marketing a self-published book, I will, instead, write a masterpiece of a book proposal that will include a sample chapter/essay of Maybe I'm Just Lazy: One Woman's Journey Through MS and Life.

The proposal will be such a riveting page turner that I will have to choose from several agents who would like to represent me and find the best house to publish Maybe I'm Just Lazy. Then, my fabulous agent, who becomes one of my best buds, will help me pick a publisher and I will be assigned to an awesome editor who really gets me and my sense of humor and thinks I'm absolutely brilliant. She, too, will become a regular at Chez Lazy Julie, enjoying iced coffee on the deck and telling me stories of famous writers she's edited. When the book comes out, I will go on a virtual tour of the US, with satellite interviews airing in all the major markets. I will visit local bookstores to sign books and read from Maybe I'm Just Lazy.

The book will really take off and, within a few months, I will be asked to be on daytime talk shows, culminating with my appearance on Oprah. She will absolutely love me and will be blown away when I have her wear the MS glasses and other props to know what it feels like to experience Optic Neuritis and other symptoms of MS. The footage will be picked up by all local network affiliates and people all over the nation will be talking about MS. A medical student who has decided he wants to do research instead of patient care, will see the footage and decide that it's his mission to find a cure for MS. And he will.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Intolerance Kills

I just received the following email from the minister at my Unitarian Universalist church which my dad calls "The Church of What's Happening Now" and I call a lovely place to present my children with a liberal and diverse spiritual foundation:

Dear Friends,

It is with a deeply saddened heart that I write to you about the tragedy that struck the Tennessee Valley UU Congregation yesterday morning. You may have already heard this news, but in case you haven't, the shooting happened by a man unknown to the congregation during a performance by the young people of their summer musical project (Annie). Six people were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds, and a seventh with an ankle injury sustained while trying to get away. Two of the members have died.

Summaries of the developing coverage can be found at

This incident carries with it deep sadness-if there is one place that should be safe, it is the sanctuary of a religious community. Rest assured, UUA staff and members of the UU Trauma Response Ministry are responding as I type this, providing support and resources to the congregation and its members. Already other religious communities are stepping up to offer assistance, and a nearby UU congregation is holding a vigil this afternoon. There will be a vigil of Boston-area UU’s at Copley Square at 7:30pm tonight.

News of this incident will most likely be on news programs, and your children may hear about this incident. Because this happened in a UU congregation, they may wonder if they will be safe at First Parish. This kind of anxiety is common, and open and honest communication is always the best. The UU Trauma Response Ministry website has some resources on responding to children in these situations ( You might also want to have your children draw pictures or make cards to send to the children of TVUUC-knowing that others are thinking of them is important at this time.

I will send another email out later this week as we know more about this tragedy, and as the needs of the congregation become more clear. If any donation funds are created, I will let you know.

Thank you, friends, for what I know will be your generous prayers and best wishes going out to our congregation in Knoxville.

I am sending peaceful vibes to Knoxville. I hope you will do the same.

Optic Neuritis Webinar

My Optic Neuritis was my presenting MS symptom and is still the most annoying feature of this otherwise FABULOUS disease. When the myelin broke down on the optic nerve of my right eye, there was nerve damage and I'm now legally blind in my right eye. I still have spots of vision, though, which can be distracting some times. I tend to close that eye while driving. If I'm going to be in the car for a while I put on my pirate patch and regal the kids with my "Arrrrr" noises. I regularly experience Uhthoff's sign in busy places (stores, a crowded beach, etc.) where it's like my eyes are on information overload and I can only focus on what's right in front of me. I also regularly see have blurry spots and see blinky lights when I'm tired, particularly when I close my eyes. I passed the eye test to drive which I still do but I tend to avoid driving at night and, when I do, I'm the person doing the imitation of a little old lady on the highway going 45 mph in the right lane with my seat pushed all the way forward and my eyes squinting out the windshield.

So, when I saw this webinar offering, I signed right up. If you have or know someone with Optic Neuritis, you may want to participate. It's free.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bad News

My news sources generally include a combination of the following:

  • The business section of the Wall Street Journal (I don’t buy it, but I started reading it regularly since it's on the table in our coffee room at work and I like coffee...a lot.
  • The Milton Times (I just started reading this town paper again after my move. I like local papers and tend to pick up free ones wherever I go, even if I rarely visit the town. I would love to have a column in my weekly paper. Do you think Milton residents might like to read my opinion on random stuff?

I rarely watch television news except magazine-type shows like Dateline and 60 Minutes. I am not trying to brag. I just want to establish myself as an intelligent, informed citizen who does not generally react to sensational headlines. As a former (very low-level) journalist, I confirm sources and check the credentials/motivation of those giving me the information.

Morning Edition on Friday included two incredibly disturbing stories that touched kind of close to home.

I heard the first story when my radio alarm woke me up. I was still sleepy so the details are kinda fuzzy. It was about two people with MS—one in England and one in the U.S. The person in England, if I remember correctly, had a bit of a time getting diagnosed and then getting the meds. BUT, once she qualified for the state-sponsored health care system, they REFUNDED the money she had already shelled out for very expensive MS meds. She is now doing well and has limited disability—foot drag, I think, and she gets physical therapy (fully paid for) to help with that.

The picture was not so bright for the person with MS who lived in the U.S. He was s a guy with no job (he lost it after his MS symptoms affected his performance) and no health insurance. His wife worked to support their family and he stayed home with his small child. They couldn’t go out a lot because he had mobility issues and no money to spend. Because he had to pay for expensive MS meds out of pocket, he didn’t take them as prescribed. I think he took 2 of 4 prescribed medications and only gave himself 1 shot out of 3 or something like that. He was waiting for Medicaid and Disability to kick in and praying he didn’t get any sicker in the meantime.

This story scared me. A lot. But it also made me feel really fortunate to have a job, medical insurance, and to be as healthy as I am. I am truly blessed. If I could just learn to push all fears of the future out of my mind.

The second story was about a 50-something woman in Massachusetts who shot herself with her husband’s rifle. Her suicide note said that she took her life because her foreclosed home was about to go up for auction. Apparently, her dead body was discovered after the auction attendees were already outside her house. According to reports, none of her friends, neighbors, or family knew that she had not paid the mortgage for 3 years and that the home was in the process of foreclosure.

I have absolutely no desire/inclination to commit suicide. Should I say that again? I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO DESIRE/INCLINATION TO COMMIT SUICIDE. I love life way too much. I did however, relate to her obvious feelings of shame. I also felt so much compassion for this woman and her family.

Again, I'm really, really fortunate. My condo probably will not go into foreclosure. My realtor, Bald Hot Ken, has negotiated a short sale and we are waiting for the second mortgage company to approve it.

I HATE being a victim but, in this case, I kind of am. I am a victim of my niavete and an unscrupulous mortgage broker who told me that I could only qualify for high interest, adjusted rate mortgages (even though my credit rating was fine at that point). He also told me that because my "marital home" was for sale, I needed two different loans to cover the inflated price of the condo, the down payment, and hefty closing costs. The unscrupulous appraiser the mortgage broker recommended appraised my home at nearly $75,000 over the actual value so I could borrow that much from the mortgage company that would, no doubt, send the appraiser a cut. The realtor who sold me the condo after I went to an open house, worked for the same agency as the seller’s agent. She told me that she would represent me as a buyer’s agent but she did not tell me I was drastically overpaying for the condo. Her commission would have suffered.

This entire time, I was in the process of separating from my partner of 15 years, working a full-time job, and taking care of Zane, who was not yet 2, and Ruby, who turned 5 after the closing. Oh, and I had to keep the "marital home" ready to show to prospective buyers every day when I left for work since it was on the market.

I was stressed out and worried that the "marital home" would sell and the kids and I would have nowhere to live. So, I did what I do when I'm afraid, I went into action mode and made a really impulsive, really bad decision. I bought and moved into a 2 bedroom condo that was not even 900 square feet with two small children. The laundry room was a floor away; there were almost no kids living in the complex full time (lots of them came to for visitation with their non-custodial dads on the weekend), "keep off the grass" signs, a long walk from the parking lot to my unit; mostly elderly neighbors (I called it the Senior Citizen Melrose Place); and an exorbitant condo feel.

We stayed for 3 years. There were a lot of good things about it. The kids really bonded sharing a room, we had lots of surrogate grandparents (except in the winter when they all went to Florida), and I didn't have to totally change everything since it was only a couple miles from the marital home, child care, friends, doctors, and meetings, and the kids lived close to their dad.

The was also some not so good. When the marital home sold, there were no profits after everyone was paid, so I couldn't pay off the second, highest interest mortgage. Then the adjusted rates started adjusting I was never very good at handling money and bills and, when I was married, I gladly relinguished all money matters to John. So, after we split, I was learning and the learning curve was pretty fricken steep.

Then, WHAM, I get MS, have a whole bunch of new medical expenses and not a whole lot of time or experience to handle it all. A few months back, I found myself broke...again...and tried to do something differently this time. Rather than calling a relative to "borrow" money (I'm embarrassed to to admit that I've done that in the past and have not repayed every loan), I called a credit counselor.

The credit counselor told me that I was paying 68% of my income for housing and related expenses. There were the two mortgages, the condo fee; and the back taxes. The really, really helpful mortgage broker, also neglected to tell me that my taxes weren't included in my loan payment which, in my ignorance, I erroneously assumed was the case since the taxes were included in the "marital home" mortgage. I discovered my error when the town sent someone to collect after I had lived in the condo at least a year. He told me that I should actually be paying 1/2 that for housing. Gulp.

The rest is icky and shameful. There were letters, there were phone calls, there was a lot of putting on the very painful big girl shoes, and, eventually, there was moving, and a notice up in the lobby of my old condo building. Still more shame.

Meantime, I found an awesome rental house, had exciting things happening with work and writing and, as I said, there is probably a short sale going through. The buyer has had an inspection already and a closing date has been tentatively agreed upon, even though we have to wait for the approval of the second mortgage company. BUT the foreclosure auction date has been set which feels really, really terrible. It will probably be cancelled, but it's still incredibly awful that it's coming this close

On some of those television news magazine shows I like, I've seen stories about elderly people who are duped by scam artists. Invariably, they are too ashamed to tell anyone of their victimization because they don't want anyone to think they are stupid or senile. I now understand that. I thought that the kind of people who had homes in foreclosure were not people like me. I thought I was smarter, more educated, and more responsible than they were. Such arrogance!

In a nutshell, MS and the sub-prime mortgage crisis suck.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cognitive Issues

I've decided, in part after reading this article, that I am not going to be afraid of the possible cognitive symptoms of my MS anymore. Well, I'm going to try, anyway.

Sometimes I have trouble concentrating, particularly when there is a lot of noise or visual distractions. Sometimes I forget the name of everyday things or say the wrong name (e.g., "toilet" instead of "bath"). Sometimes I lose track of details or mix up dates. Sometimes I momentarily forget how to do things that I know how to do like start the dishwasher or change the margins on a document.

I'm not walking around like some sort of prematurely senile person. All these symptoms are momentary. They come and they go. When I forget a word, I say the wrong word but almost immediately recognize my mistake and search for the new word.

I've decided to focus on coping skills and not on the symptoms themselves. Today at work, I wore headphones with music (everyone does it--I'm not the weirdo) to block out all the jocularity coming from the sales team. I definitely got a lot more done.

It might also help if I get some sleep. It's almost midnight and I'm still typing. No time left (or spoons) for self editing, so....g'night!

Inspiring Words

I get an e-newsletter every day about writing and there's usually a quote of the day. Today's quote was by one of my favorite writers. I love Anne Lamott!

Quote of the Day: Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

--Anne Lamott

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Lazy Julie Baker Table???!!!!

This afternoon, I was sitting at my desk editing sales copy and I heard my cell phone ring. (My new ring tone is Gavin Degraw's "I'm in Love with a Girl" because, in my fantasies, I have a rock star/sing er/songwriter boyfriend who wrote the song for me.) But I digress.

So, the caller ID came up as "Restricted" but I picked it up anyway. (Sometimes I like to live dangerously.) The woman on the phone said she works in the same practice as my counselor and that she and her husband (who has MS) are involved with the Central New England Chapter of the National MS Society. She's on the planning committee for the Women Against MS Fashion Plates. It's an annual fashion show/luncheon/fundraiser at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. She told me that she read my article in Lola and that she liked my spirit (or something else really flattering). Then she told me that the event celebrates and profiles a few (or several, I'm not sure) real women with MS and she asked me if I could be one of those women!!!! She think I'm a great power of example.

Apparently, this honor comes with a photo of me that will be in the event program and on a big screen during the luncheon. And, one of the tables will be NAMED after me. The Julie Baker table!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And, if I want to (I want to, I want to!!!!), I can be a runway model for the fashion show. The organizers started using real women with MS a couple years ago instead of professional, anorexic models.

I feel so honored. I also feel excited, scared, proud, nervous, giddy, and thrilled to pieces by this latest MS gift. I want to fill the Julie Baker table with people I know and love, celebrate how strong and spirited women with MS can be, strut my 44 and fabulous stuff on the catwalk, and help raise money for this very good cause. More to come...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Zane's New Haircut

Am I a cool mom or what?

Monday, July 14, 2008


I'm searching for stock photography for a work project and I decided to do a search for "Multiple Sclerosis" to see what came up. By far, the majority of photos were of MRI film and people in motorized wheelchairs. WTF?????!!!!!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

When I was pricing moving companies for my recent relocation, I found a guy named Matt Boynton who is a business school student with a true entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to being very smart and business savvy, Matt is a very handsome guy with a nice butt who is young enough to classify me as a cougar for even THINKING THAT THOUGHT. (My younger, single readers shouldn't get too excited. He has a girlfriend.) Anyway, Matt started a business called where you can hire students for $23 per hour per student. I hired three of them to move all my stuff into the new house and then rented a 24 foot UHaul to put it all it. They did an awesome job and it only took three hours. A coworker had a very positive experience with them, too. According to Matt, they will do just about anything (paining, yard work, etc.). I highly recommend them.

Matt may be a future business partner, too, if either one of us finds the backing to follow through on my idea that he loved to have a portable, roll-out ramp that people can affix to the top of the stairs when they move to simply slide the boxes up and down.

If anyone could make it happen, Mr. Boynton could. He reminded me of my brother John (who celebrates a birthday today!). John is a very smart, very courageous, and very successful businessman and he is going to die of envy when our portable stair ramp makes a million dollars.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Classic Car Painting

(I started writing this on 6/21. I'm not exactly that slow of a typist. It's just that, between Scrabulous, moving, work, unpacking, and the rest of my life, I just got around to finishing the story. (Because it's 7/10, I also need to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTINA. WE ARE NOT OLD. WE ARE COUGARS!)

Bald Hot Ken and his oldest son, Bald Hot Kenny, helped me move a bunch of stuff into my new place over the weekend. Since Kenny was the product of a teenage pregnancy and Ken, Sr. takes very good care of himself, the two look more like brothers than father and son. Anyway, the two follicular-challenged hotties borrowed a pickup, help me load it with bins and boxes from my storage room, and headed to Milton so I could get a jump on my move. (The kids and I officially moved in on 6/27--my birthday.)

Since the truck was piled high with my belongings, Cautious Ken Sr. drove in the far right lane and never went over 50 mph. We were only on the highway for a few miles when I heard the sound of something hitting the road behind us.

"Uh-oh," said Ken, "Something fell." I was in the back seat of the extended cab truck so I couldn't see the side view mirrors or anything through the boxes that were blocking the rear window.

"Uh-oh," added Kenny. "It hit a car." I craned my neck, trying to see over, around, or through the boxes. As we pulled over to the side of Rt. 3, Kenny elaborated, "I think it was paint."

Did he say "paint????????I felt sick to my stomach as I remembered the Rubbermaid container filled with leftovers from various "art" projects (e.g., the minivan, a dresser, a lampshade, Ruby's old bed). Most of the paint was free from my old job and Craigslist but I don't like to waste anything so I hung on to it for possible future decorative painting projects. I was actually quite proud of myself for organizing it into a single bin and labeling the lid.

When I saw the car behind me, I felt nauseous and faint...and very, very afraid of what might happen next. Directly behind our truck sat a Beautiful, obviously antique, cherry red convertible...with the top down.

The driver, who I later learned was Phil Carrington, did not yell, swear, glare, call the cops, stamp his feet, take a swing at us, or do any of the other things I would have done. Instead, he got out of the car and asked if we had any towels.

Quick-Thinking Ken suggested we take the mostly green, white, and blue-paint splattered car to a car wash that was just off the next exit. Phil agreed and somehow managed to peer over the paint-splattered windshield to follow us to the car wash. During the next hour, while Ken fed quarters into the self-serve car wash and Kenny, Ken, Phil, and I gently but thoroughly scrubbed paint off the car, I befriended Phil. Most people wouldn't sue their friends. Plus he was a nice guy.

I learned that Phil lived on the Cape but grew up in Milton; the car was a 1970 Barracuda; and that Phil bought the vehicle new in 1970 as gift for his wife. I also learned that he paid $5000 for the car and that his lovely bride wouldn't let add the option of a Hemi engine. When I asked Phil if he was just out for a drive, I learned that he was on his way to a car show to show off his beautiful, cherry red Barracuda convertible.

Are you fricken kidding me????!!!!

Then, add to the weirdness, Phil told me that the reason he didn't panic was that the same thing happened to his daughter the month prior. She was riding behind a truck, a box of paint fell off and paint got all over her car. He knew from the experience that the paint would come off if you didn't let it dry.

Phil seemed calm but confused about the fact that paint regularly gets transported in open trucks on the highway.

"Are you painters?" he asked.

"No," I answered. "I'm moving."

"Who moves paint?" asked Phil, with a surprising lack of judgment in his tone.

Not me again.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I have a problem...

Hi, my name is Julie. I am powerless over Facebook Scrabulous and my life is unmanageable. Ok. that might be putting too hard a point on the pencil. I was really just looking for an amusing reason to explain my lack of writing.

I've been on vacation for the last week, but I have a lot going on: packing; moving; unpacking; organizing; decorating; being a non-compliant MS patient; locking myself out of my new place and climbing in the laundry room window wearing jammies; hanging out with Zane (e.g., swimming, reading, ice cream, playing in our new yard, exploring our new town, getting his first library card); grabbing kisses and more when and where I can with Ken; dealing with all the little details that don't go according to plan with a move (e.g, the Post Office canceling mail instead of forwarding it, trying to sign up for utilities via the Internet and inadvertently making appointments with competing cable/phone/Internet providers for the same day); driving away with my cell phone on the roof of the car and, after it crashed to the pavement, I no longer have any visuals, including my phone book and caller ID. missing my Rubilicious terribly (she went to Maine to visit her Auntie for a week--three days longer than I agreed to. Grrrrrr.); and playing Scrabulous in free moments.

Apparently, I am not quite ready to be restored to sanity.