Monday, July 12, 2010

WHOOOOSH!! RE-Entry Shock!

Hi everyone! I apologize profusely for being absent for so long. Things have been crazy to say the least!

I have been with you in spirit, however.

I got back from Colorado the day before I did my event in Palos Verdes, which went amazingly well. Then I was re-united with my dog, Fiona, who, believe it or not, had grown visibly while I was gone. These dogs grow slowly over a 2 year period and it never fails to surprise me after I’ve been away for awhile. This was the longest I had ever been away from her. Two months!

The Colorado working “vacation” was not really a vacation, but it was a lovely change of pace. Being up in the forest where it’s so quiet that we would go to the window to see who was passing when we heard the footsteps of people walking on the road below, was so restful. I always do so much better, healthwise, when I’m at a high altitude (in this case, 9,000 ft), and when I’m surrounded by wildlife.

This was a writing vacation, and I got a lot done. Also, it was a series of meetings with my attorney, and we squared away the Barn Owl Alliance paperwork for the 501(c)3. There was a lot to do besides that but I won’t bore you with the details.

After I did the event in Palos Verdes (where I met a few of you blog readers and alliance members!), I returned home and immediately left again with my dog so I could fumigate the house. The hamsters are at a babysitter’s, so it was the first time in years that I had a chance to fumigate, which needed to be done because the hammsters’ food sometimes contains seed moths, which are very tiny moths that become real pests in time.

The key to avoiding seed moths is to freeze the food for at least 24 hours before opening it. I usually buy my hamster food at a place that does this for the customer in advance, but I made the mistake of buying hamster food at one of the big chains a couple of times and was suddenly inundated w/ little moths. Ugh. The situation was beyond the point where I could just catch and release them, which would have been my preference.

So, Fiona and I stayed away for a few days after that.

Finally, however, I returned home.

Every time I return from the mountains – any mountains – I get what I call “re-entry shock”. I crash. My body has to adjust again to the high air pressure of sea level (at high altitudes, I do so much better. There seems to be less pressure on my brain and I have a lot less symptoms, hence the migraines are much fewer and lower in intensity)> When I get back the migraines hit like they’ve been waiting for their revenge and I’m just laid out for weeks with one migraine after another.

The heat also doesn’t help. When it’s hot, ones’ blood vessels dialate, which also contributes to my migraines. I’m just not made for hot weather, and the Colorado mountains are nice and cool in the summer and even cooler in the winter. I literally have gotten out of the car in 40 degree weather, wearing a tank top and shorts, and rolled in a snow bank to cool off. It’s ridiculous!

Other people are wearing coats and hats and I’m still in summer clothes. So coming back to the heat of S. California is just a shock to the system.

Add to all this the smog, traffic, the crush of people, and the complete lack of anything even resembling nature, and the picture is complete.

Hence, I’ve been sick ever since I got back, mostly sleeping right under the direct flow of the air conditioning.

Also, getting online around here is also difficult – I definitely need to get wireless.

All this to say, I have not been online for a couple of weeks, and I do apologize for my absence!

This does NOT mean that I’ve become any less passionate about the Barn Owl Alliance or the blog or anything else, though!

I’ve got a few projects going on that are also going to take some of my time, but the barn owl alliance goes forward. I’m hoping that all the data that you lovely people have been amassing is complete enough for me to start acting on it.

I think the next step is to take that data and have a sit-down meeting with Nancy Conney and perhaps Tom Stephan and try to come up with the ideal parameters for an owl box with a branching system. Tom has experimented with a branching system that worked (the one on Owlivia and Owliver’s box), and a few other people have also devised systems. Perhaps there can be some flexibility if the regulations are written correctly.

I would like to not only come up with a list of parameters w/ Nancy and Tom but would also like to work with Nancy to contact the right regulators and begin discussions with them. The data that we’ve collected will help in making our case.

Please be patient with me on this! I have a lot going on and have to pace myself in all these other projects as well as this one, but I am persistent, if nothing else! Doggedly so!

I’ve hired an assistant who is really a publicist - Keith Malone. He is a long time dear friend. We’ve been friends since the 4th grade and have done many projects together from lab experiments to being on the school newspaper together to being in the International and the Spanish clubs in school to going to the same college even! We’ve even done some writing together.

You might notice that sometimes Keith will put updates on the Wesley the Owl facebook or twitter, or that he’ll occasionally speak for me. That’s fine. He’s on the board for the Barn Owl Alliance and I trust him implicitly!

Because of Keith, the Wesley the Owl facebook page is now active again and you can refer to it for updates about my schedule. The website is not up to date with schedules because Wendy still has charge of that and she’s so busy with her new book and the deadlines involved that Keith is going to be taking that over eventually. But all in good time.

I wanted to let you know that I’ll be speaking and signing books in San Diego on Thursday, July 15. It’s not my usual talk about my life w/ Wesley, however, because it’s for a group of editors. The talk will be more about the editing process, the assembling of a team,, the importance of good editing, and even some of the nuts and bolts techniques I used in editing my book.

I’ll be teaching a workshop on editing and also a workshop on book and chapter structure in September at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in Newport Beach. Obviously, this is tailored for writers who are serious about getting published and would not be of interest to most of my readers, but I thought I’d just mention it. I may also be doing an Audubon event in September in Los Angeles, but it’s not confirmed yet.

Anyway, that’s the update. I just wanted to let you know I haven’t disappeared from your lives or lost interest in the least! I’ve just been busy, overwhelmed w/ projects, and then sick for awhile as I adjusted to the hot, crowded, California environment. Sigh. I guess we can’t live in paradise all the time, right? California is pretty darn good, actually, so I’m not complaining!

Thanks for your concern and patience!

Stacey O’Brien

PS: The book was recently translated into Hungarian! Wow! I’m amazed at the exotic languages into which it’s been translated. So far we have
English – American
English – Great Britain (the British Isles, Australia, NZ. Canada)
Chinese mainland – both Mandarin and Cantonese
Portuguese (Brazil)
And now Hungarian!

It’s also available in large print and as a book on CD.

The German version was recently featured in the German Readers’ Digest and published as a Readers’ Digest Condensed book and was featured in their biggest womens’ magazine.

In Italy, there was a beautiful article in their national newpaper’s weekly magazine w/ gorgeous color pictures.

And in Brazil it was featured in the national newspaper, O Globo. O Globo is also my publisher in Brazil.

I happen to speak Brazilian Portuguese (although it’s very rusty) because the first child I ever sponsored through Compassion International was from Brazil. I wanted to be able to really communicate with her, so I learned Brazilian Portuguese and got permission to call the school and center to talk to her! I’d call and they’d run up the road to get her and we’d talk for hours sometimes. The first time we talked, they didn’t know to hang up the phone after the conversation and just dropped it where it was. The connection stayed alive for hours but thankfully I wasn’t charged for all that time! The ability to speak with her directly was so important as she grew into a young woman and had no one to advise her about certain things. It was a joy to know her through knowing her language!

One of the things that the book supports is sponsorship of kids caught in the deep cycle of poverty. Sponsorship pays for their schooling, medical care, nutrition, parenting programs for their parents, practical lessons on hygienic practices such as boiling the water before drinking it, also drilling wells for clean water, dental, vocational training, and for those who show promise, college education. There is also a psychological/spiritual component that has to do with overcoming the hopeless self image that’s propogated by the society in which the kids live, which tells them that they are worthless and just trash. This is not true, and they are told that each and every one of them is precious and worthy and full of potential and possibility. They aren’t used to hearing these things in the slums where they live.

Obviously I’m passionate about sponsoring kids! I’ve checked out this organization thoroughly and know that the money is going where it’s supposed to be going! I’ve seen so many kids transformed over the years that it keeps me going, keeps me humble, and keeps me from thinking I’ve got it so bad w/ the migraines and such. When a person is in the kind of wretched poverty that these kids have endured, there is no medical care for anyone in their community. I feel lucky that I have access to doctors, etc.

I know I’m rambling a bit, but for me, having the book contribute to these kids as well as to other groups such as Saint Jude Hospital and wildlife organizations gives me a much bigger vision for why I want to continue to keep the book going. It’s not just about me, it’s about what kind of legacy of hope I can contribute to through the book. THAT is something I can get excited about!

And now the Barn Owl Alliance, too! It’s all so inspiring!

Thank you all so much for being a part of this and, again, for your patience!

What I’m reading:

Born to Bark by Stanley Coren – it’s not out yet but will be soon. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotswinkle: A silly spoof, in the tradition of Being There, about the world of publishing.