Archive for the ‘real life’ Tag

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.)

News from Real Life

Last Friday I bought a new car.

I did my homework to figure out exactly which model I wanted, I was pre-approved for a loan from my credit union, I had detailed my trade-in and removed all personal possessions from it, I knew what price point I wanted. I was ready.

It still took four hours to go through the negotiation and buying process (paperwork). It might have taken longer because I didn’t use the dealership for financing, even though all the financial gurus say not to.

It took another half-day to get the new car registered and the insurance switched over. I don’t remember all this extra work when I bought the Subaru, but that was fourteen and a half years ago.

The new car is a slightly used 2012 Ford Escape XLT, with more freaking buttons in the dashboard and steering wheel than some airplanes I’ve flown in.

I think I have to know Morse code to reset the trip odometer, but it locks/unlocks by itself and nags you when the oil needs to be changed. The first time it locked the doors while it was moving, it startled me to the point of almost driving off the road.

It also has an automatic transmission, my first ever. I don’t really like the automatic transmission, but I guess 99.5 percent of humanity is too busy texting, shaving, eating and/or putting on makeup to learn how to control their vehicle by properly using a clutch.

Yes, that was a slam at people who can’t drive a car with a manual transmission. You will not survive the coming apocalypse, as zombie hordes can manage automatics. So there. Ha! (Yes, we still have a car with a five-speed, so we’ll be able to get away.)

Spooky Man has accused me of being twitterpated with the new car. If I am, it’s his fault; he chose the car, because it has the most comfortable passenger seat of all the models on my short list. I am happy with the purchase, even if the process can be exhausting.

God willing, I won’t have to do this again for a decade.

Follow-up note 9/17/2012: I figured out why it took so long to write up the purchase agreement. A credit union I used to belong to 15+ years ago sent me a letter explaining why they turned me down for a loan. I called them, because I didn’t apply for a loan with them. Turns out the dealership did — after I had told them I had my own financing. Sigh.

I Survived the Business Trip

SFO hates me.

Getting there on Tuesday wasn’t bad, although the pilot wanted the wings de-iced before we left (it seemed awfully warm to have frost on the wings, but whatever). In spite of taking off 15 minutes later, we arrived half an hour early, and had to wait for our gate.

Then the jetway broke. Yup. San Francisco International Airport had to push a portable ramp up to the airplane and we walked down the stairs like it was 1975. Ohhhhhkay.

Then there was the trip back. My “11:17” flight took off at 2:10, during a small break in the heavy fog. And by heavy, I mean a smallish jet that had its nose up fairly close to the terminal windows appeared to have no tail at all.

The California office was nice (much bigger than the Boise outpost), the people were lovely, the job candidates I interviewed were personable and highly qualified, the hotel was serene, and the airport either hates me or was having a really bad week..

That is all.

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