Archive for the ‘real life’ Tag

Why Bronchitis Stinks on Ice

After taking some time off for the holidays (and the mandatory shutdown at the day job), I lost two and a half weeks of January to a cold that went bronchitis. And that was me, the one who watches like a hawk at the first sign of a cold, because they almost always try to settle in my lungs (walking pneumonia back in high school left me susceptible).

It’s always worrying when, 28 hours after the first weird feeling, your doctor listens to your chest and says, “Wow. You just earned yourself a chest x-ray.” Luckily, said x-ray ruled out pneumonia, but showed a nasty case of bronchitis. Yay? Antibiotics and an inhaled steroid to get the coughing to work better, and I was on my way.

The constant coughing wasn’t too much of a problem (cough syrup kept it to a minimum and the Albuterol made it more effective), the rumbling and crackling when trying to breathe (or sleep) was annoying, but the bone-deep fatigue—probably from not being able to breathe properly—kept me from doing much of anything for two weeks. Do. Not. Like.

However, azithromycin is amazing. Six pills over five days and I’m back to me. Like. Very much.

So, now back to our regularly scheduled writing: finishing up the Kindness of Strangers novella to round out the first Strike Force anthology (Open Mike at Club Bebop, Getting Lucky, and Kindness of Strangers), plus telling the slightly skewed Sleeping Beauty story of Ekaterina Avondale’s parents, Dane Avondale (Hero of Ararat) and Aurora Ivanov (the Dragonkiller).

With luck, which hasn’t been in large supply for writing in the last few weeks, I should be able to get them edited, formatted, covered, and up for sale by the end of February (and I probably just jinxed myself by setting a deadline).

I’m also planning to release my first historical romance at the end of this month, under the pen name Jane Reynolds. Look for A Ruined Woman in about a week.

And then I can start on the writing I had planned for this year, LOL.

 

Baby Groot, the Lazarus Hawthorn

We had a scarlet hawthorn tree in our front yard. It died a few years ago.

I gave it every chance, we watered it for a year and then let it stay an eyesore for another six months before we gave up and had it removed. And I mean removed.

We had the stump ground down four feet below the soil surface, because we wanted to plant another tree there eventually. This is important, because that tree was not just dead (really, a year and a half with no living leaf on it), it was gone.

Then we had the worst winter in decades, fondly known as the snowpocalypse of 2017. A carport collapsed, warping the air conditioner so that it had to be replaced, destroying the chest freezer, and damaging the paint of my car. And blocking our access to the back yard for about four months.

By the time we got the mess cleaned up and the carport replaced, the back yard was a shambles–and it hadn’t been in great shape before. So plans were made, money saved up, and in June 2018 we had both front and back yards taken out and redone simply, keeping a couple of rose bushes in the front and….

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Hey, where did this little hawthorn tree come from growing in exactly the same spot as the original tree?

Yeah. Our hawthorn came back not just from the dead, but from the dead-and-removed. The landscapers weed-whacked it a bit before Spooky Man noticed what it was, and he saved it. Because it’s either a zombie or our very own Baby Groot. Yeah, our tree has a name now, and we are babying Baby Groot.

She is ours and we love her.

 

What is ‘too stupid to live?’

I live with a first responder. My husband (known here as Spooky Man), is a veteran living with disability. He has been a caregiver for the developmentally disabled, a correctional officer, a correctional emergency response fireman, and an army medic.

My father was a communications specialist for the Boise National Forest, and he was involved in the original formation of the National Interagency Fire Center (then known as the Boise Interagency Fire Center). He was a first responder, too. My family never took summer vacations, because my father was always on wildfires all over the West.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?

Years ago, a reviewer accused Tasha Ocasek of making a too-stupid-to-live decision at the end of The Valmont Contingency. My response then was laughter, because I knew immediately three things about the reviewer:

  1. He/she was not a first responder
  2. He/she had never lived with a first responder
  3. He/she does not (and might never) understand a first responder’s way of thinking

The recent anniversary of September 11, 2001 made me think about this again, and it took a few days to get my thoughts in order.

Obviously, Tasha Ocasek is a first responder, who becomes a respected trauma surgeon by the time of The Ocasek Opportunity’s main action. But the mindset came long before the training, the residencies, and the board certifications. She’s the kind of person who runs toward danger, because she knows she has the ability and the responsibility to protect others.

I know about this mindset because of the first responders in my life. (Me, I’m a lab rat; I’ll wait for them to bring stuff to me and then I’ll tell them what’s in it, thank-you-very-much. Adrenaline gives me a hangover.)

Tasha refuses to be protected from the space zombies — no, just because the Republic Navy has their best minds working on the problem it doesn’t mean that she’s not going to work on the problem; she gets lucky and find the source of the problem, but she doesn’t find a solution. Then she walks into her worst nightmare because she knows the source of the attack on the ben Khalids and, guhdammit, She. Is. Going. To. Fix. It.

Yes, complications ensue and she nearly dies (a couple of times), but her determination and conviction that she can make a difference never wavers. That’s a first responder.

If she’s too stupid to live, so is every fireman, police officer, EMT, or other hero who runs into a burning building to save a kitten, wades into floodwater full of sewage and pollution to collect a house-bound hurricane survivor, jumps out of a perfectly good airplane with a pulaski and parachute to put out a raging inferno, or charges into a building with an active shooter inside.

Thank heavens there are people out there who are too stupid to live. And if you’re one of them, thank you for everything you do.

Vacation!

It’s close enough now that I’m starting to believe it…Spooky Man and I are going to the Oregon coast for a week at the end of August. This will be our third vacation in nearly 26 years of marriage. The last two times we went on holiday, I was unemployed at the time; this year that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve got the dog and indoor cats (on their special diet because they are somewhere between heftychonk and megachonk) scheduled for the kennel, a house sitter lined up, and my special login for work. Yes, I will be working for a few hours because I have translations coming back that week, but I’ll be doing it over coffee from our hotel, looking out onto the ocean. I’ll also be working on Kindness of Strangers.

In closing, this is Flynn (formerly Lord Minamoto, Samurai cat), Spooky Man’s latest stray (abandoned by a neighbor’s temporary roommates last year), both deep in contemplation and in mid-yawn:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because cat pictures. And because he is a fluffy beast.

 

So, Breast Cancer Came Back

Ductile carcinoma in situ calcifications turned up on a mammogram in February, looking like someone got dust on the negative. Only it was a digital picture. Sigh.

One closeup mammogram, one needle biopsy and three doctor appointments later, the left tata became medical waste. It had thought about killing me twice, so it had to go. And on April 8, it went.

Luckily, it was just starting to think about it (ductile carcinoma is sometimes called Stage 0 cancer, because the body is walling it off with calcium so it hasn’t started to spread yet), which means no chemo. Since chemo is nasty no matter how you look at it, this is A Good Thing.

Right now I’m an Amazon who isn’t good with a bow, and my pendant watch keeps hanging funny, so I’m starting reconstruction on August 18. They’re going to sneak a little muscle from my left shoulder blade area, along with some skin, and put in a tissue expander, which is like an adjustable breast implant. The muscle is to help hold it in place.

The tissue expander starts out kind of flat and they add fluid once a week until you get the size you want — in my case, to match the other side. Then they take it out and put in the permanent implant. And I go buy a t-shirt that says, “One of them’s fake, because the real one was thinking about killing me.”

It’s nice, living in the future. Cancer is annoying and expensive, but it’s nowhere near a death sentence anymore. Also, after the initial wave of terror passes, it’s boring. As a result, this is probably the last you’ll hear about it from me, unless I’m complaining about surgical drains.

So do your exams and get your mammos done. It’s a lot cheaper and less awful if you catch things early. 🙂

Val

Best-Laid Plans

I am the president of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America this year (and probably next year, unless someone wants to mount a write-in campaign). As part of my administration, I started a new project, which I call Finish the Damn Book–having shamelessly stolen the name from Cherry Adair’s much spiffier program at the Greater Seattle chapter of RWA.

Actually, I started it because I needed motivation to produce more output this year. Last year I finished a 70,000-word manuscript. The year before, only a 35,000-word novella. This vexed me, so I decided to do something about it, and drag the chapter along with me, or at least those members willing to be dragged.

This morning I did a progress check on myself; thus far this year I have written approximately 73,000 words of fiction. That’s not bad, but….that was spread over four different titles.

Sigh.

The book I wanted to finish is only half done, and I have only three months left in the year.

Granted, I’ve published two titles (the novel and novella finished last year and the year before), and I had to write blurbs and an author bio for those. I also finished the first draft of another novella. And I’ve written probably another 5,000 words of workshops, essays and articles about writing fiction.

But I need to get my behind in gear, or I’m not going to earn my romance writer’s sparkly tiara. I might have to make do with a coffee-cup full of chocolates and a purple feather boa, our consolation prizes. Quelle horreurs!

I’m off to, you know, Finish the Damn Book.

 

 

 

February was a busy month

V-PAP, diabetes, cerebral events in dogs, you name it and it probably happened last month.

Spooky Man got off of all but one pain medication, turned 55 (which is specifying the number of years, but it explains sooo much), got his driver’s license back and bought a used Hummer. It’s the H3, the little version that actually gets almost-not-disgusting gas mileage. But it can still go up a 16-inch vertical curb.

He wants to get back to rockhounding this year, and says we needed a vehicle that can go into the mountains. Okay. It makes him happy, so I’m happy. Mostly.

He’s finally going to get some treatment for his sleep issues — we found out he has obstructive sleep apnea AND central sleep apnea — which could help his blood pressure, blood chemistry (cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar are all affected by crappy sleep), and pain levels.

Central sleep apnea is when you just forget to breathe altogether for a while, which scares the bejeebers out of me. His second sleep study introduced the VPAP, a machine that not only keeps your airways from collapsing, it will periodically increase the pressure to remind you (force you) to breathe.

Unfortunately, the workup to get one requires at least four doctor appointments — chest CT scan, echocardiogram, two-hour “pulmonary test”, and multiple consultations with the somnologist (sleep doctor). And this was after the two sleep studies.

And all this while I was getting diagnosed with Type II diabetes and starting my first Metformin prescription. Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy a sports car (or a Hummer), but my family’s rite of passage is insulin resistance and the first Metformin prescription. I’ve been fighting it — since I got off the steroids in 2008, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds. Just this week, I crossed the line between morbidly obese and moderately obese; only 40 more pounds and I’ll be down to overweight! Sigh.

Corticosteroids are evil. I’m just sayin’….

At least I impressed my doctor enough that he didn’t send me to diabetes education camp. And when he said it would help me lose more weight (those last five pounds I practically had to chisel off), I held out a hand and said, “Gimmee.”

But enough about the humans. Hank had a minor stroke (droopy left ear, droopy left side of his face) and his left back leg swelled up for no particular reason. One $400 ultrasound later, he’s been diagnosed with “Shar-Pei Syndrome” and put on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (think Advil, but it’s called Rimadyl because it’s a slightly different molecule).

It’s supposed to help the swelling and a possible cause of his stroke — immune-mediated vasculitis, which is also part of Shar-Pei Syndrome. I’d never heard of it before, but a Google search confirmed it’s a Thing. At least it has an inexpensive treatment.

So that’s where I’ve been all month, instead of writing blog posts or working on my WIP more than a few sentences: At a doctor appointment. I’m hoping we’re done for a while and March will be relatively doctor-free.

Marroooo! The Cat in the Pack

I have a cat who, I think, thinks he’s a dog. I have another cat who will speak dog if Spooky Man asks him to.

What does this have to do with “Marroooo!”? Well, we took Stuart to the vet last summer with Hank the dog. And he discovered — again — that he doesn’t like car rides. We discovered what he sounds like when he tries to howl like Hank: Meeeoooow. Meeeooowww. Maarrroooo!

This is all backstory.

Tuffy, the outside cat, recently had to spend the night inside because Spooky Man was sure it was going to be Too Cold For Outside Cats. At four a.m., my darling man got up to use the facilities and Tuffy — wide awake because all self-respecting cats should be out catting around at four in the morning, thank you very much — meowed and chirped to go outside, please.

Spooky Man said, “Okay, you can go outside if you give me one ‘maroo’ and one ‘maroo’ only.”

Tuffy immediately said, “Maroo?” Yes, it was in the form of a question. A rather puzzled question, too, actually.

Spooky Man let him out. It took me 15 minutes to stop giggling and go back to sleep. This is the sort of reality you can never put in a novel because it won’t be believed.

Ma-ma-ma-marrrooooo!

What I’m Thankful For This Year

1. I can feel my feet. (This wasn’t true in 2005; I’m much better now and thankful for it.)
2. I have someone to love.
3. I have interesting work.
4. I have enough money to pay my bills, give to those in need, *and* save for my old age.
5. There are new books to read. Lots of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to folks in the U.S.

If You Don’t Have Your Health

My friend Chris is getting his final leukemia diagnosis today. He ran a 10K October 6th, and went to the doctor a few days later for a possible infection. I have no idea what caused the lab to check his blood for leukemia cells, but thank god they did.

It’s been caught ridiculously early (before he had a single symptom), which means he might be able to get away with only one round of chemotherapy to get rid of it, putting it in the realm of pain-in-the-[bleep] cancer rather than just-might-kill-me cancer.

Having been through something a bit similar in 2009 (my debut novel was published in between pain-in-the-[bleep] cancer diagnoses that year), I’m sending all the good vibes to Chris that I can muster. He’s a lovely person, so I can muster quite a few good vibes for him.

And I’m impatiently waiting for the final diagnosis (the subtype determines the chemo cocktail to use), so he can get started on fighting it off, and I can get started on supporting him in his fight.

Go, Chris! [Bleep] cancer! (This is actually a John Scalzi, Wil Wheaton, and xkcd quote, so I’m sure you can figure out what the [Bleep] is replacing.)

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